Monthly Archives: July 2018

Flash Movie Review: Hotel Transylvania 3

AS I LISTENED I THOUGHT IT was an ingenious plan. It was a time before cellular phones and my friend was telling me how her family would take a road trip. When relatives were included on their road trips, involving more than one car, the drivers would create a way of communicating with each other. They would flash their auto lights in a specific way, similar to Morse code, to say they needed to stop for a restroom, a break, gas or a meal. Alternating between the right and left turn signals would mean someone in the car needed to stop at a bathroom. If passengers were getting hungry then the driver would either flash the lights 3 times or tap the brakes 3 times in rapid succession to signal the other driver. I was impressed with the plan and realized the introduction of the smart phone sure made traveling by automobile a whole different experience than what it used to be. If I thought about it I could have questioned why the cars needed to follow each other; but I could understand the reasoning behind forming a caravan. You know, the safety in numbers train of thought.      FAMILY VACATIONS PROVIDE A MULTITUDE of experiences. The ones I experienced were predominately for visiting relatives who lived out of state. So, when people talk about the type of vacations they would do as a family, I am curious to hear about them. I remember listening about a family who took nature trips in some of the national parks across the country. There was one trip where they went hiking with their two small children and soon discovered the trail was not geared for a novice; the kids were scared and complaining. I looked up the place where they went and was stunned that someone would look at it and think small children could handle the climb. Heck I was not sure I could even do it! As another example I have some relatives who love getting into the car and driving to obscure tourist type places that you would never find on a “best of” list for vacation spots. They would take a vacation to find the largest ball of yarn or drive to visit the mustard museum in some small town in a different state. Usually they would find a variety of curiosity spots to stop at along the way. I am good with whatever “trips your trigger” for a family vacation; that is why I went to see the latest installment of this animated comedic, family film.      FEELING HER FATHER NEEDED A vacation from running the hotel Mavis, voiced by Selena Gomez (Getaway, Spring Breakers), came up with a brilliant idea. She booked the family on a boat cruise. For her father Dracula, voiced by Adam Sandler (The Wedding Singer, Big Daddy), it would be more than just a boat ride. With Andy Samberg (That’s My Boy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine-TV) voicing Johnny, Kathryn Hahn (Bad Moms franchise, Afternoon Delight) voicing Ericka and Jim Gaffigan (Chappaquiddick, Away We Go) voicing Van Helsing; this third installment was more of the same I am afraid to say. Little children might enjoy this picture because of all the monsters; but overall, I did not find much humor in the story. The visuals and animation were certainly fun, but they were not enough to support the feeble script. Pretty much a majority of this film was a series of sight gags. Surprisingly there was a message in the movie regarding inclusion, but chances are it will get lost on the youngsters. The only other thing to say about this picture is to make sure you bring a life jacket or a lifeboat because this boat is taking on water.

 

2 stars

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Flash Movie Review: Leave No Trace

THERE COMES A TIME WHERE A child realizes their parent is only human. Some children reach this conclusion with hardly a notice while others discover it in a flurry of drama. There was a kid in my old neighborhood whose parents were born and raised in a different country. They spoke English with a heavy accent which I did not know kept them from socializing with the other families on the block. I rarely saw them for the years I lived there. Their son, I knew, felt embarrassed by them. Though I could understand his reasons why, I did not agree; English was not their first language, so who cared if they spoke with an accent? There was another family in the neighborhood where I remember the exact time their child realized their parents did not know everything; it was during a study session, where a small group of us were studying for class. When we got stuck trying to figure out one problem in our study guide my friend asked his parents. They came in and looked at what we were trying to solve. After a few minutes reading and re-reading the problem they told us they did not know. That was the moment we realized parents did not know everything.      WHERE I FELT THE SADDEST for a kid was when they had a parent who was not fully functioning in reality. During the middle grades there was a new student who had recently moved into the neighborhood. Come to find out it was their 13thmove in 9 years. The fact that they could keep up their studies while moving back and forth across the country was amazing to me. None of us believed the excuse given for all the moves; we could tell there was some embarrassment about it. Now there was a girl I knew whose mother had serious mental health issues. If this had happened presently I believe she could have received the proper care; but back then she was constantly going between her house and a mental health institute. Some of the kids would call it an “insane asylum.” I felt bad for her because sometimes her mother had to be removed from their house strapped down on a stretcher, with the ambulance lights piercing the night sky. All the neighbors knew what was going on without peeking out their front windows. I am sure it was not easy for anyone, especially when one needs their parent to act like a parent. This film festival winning drama brings a new definition to what is a parent and a home.      ALL THEIR NEEDS WERE BEING met as war veteran Will, played by Ben Foster (The Messenger, Hell of High Water), was raising his daughter Tom, played by Thomasin McKenzie (The Changeover, Shortland Street-TV), in the middle of a national park, that they called home. Written and directed by Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone, Stray Dog), this movie was exquisite. The story slowly rolled out allowing the actors to shine with the sparse script. Ben and Thomasin were beyond good; they brought realness and rawness to their characters, making them come alive. With Dana Millican (Lean on Pete, Portlandia-TV) as Jean and Jeff Kober (Sully, Sons of Anarchy-TV) as Mr. Walters, this was a film for adults. I absolutely enjoyed the experience which included the viewers at my showing. All were adults and not one of them looked at their cell phones the entire time the movie was playing. The filming was beautiful with the story being set in Portland, Oregon and I felt the director took full advantage of the surroundings to let the actors truly discover themselves. This picture was a magnificent way to show a relationship between a father and daughter.

 

4 stars          

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Three Identical Strangers

I KNEW MY FRIEND HAD an older brother but there was not a trace of his existence in the house. The parents never talked about their older son; there was not a photograph to be found anywhere and what I assumed was his bedroom was instead an office. My friend did not talk much about his brother; his memories of growing up were mostly of them fighting. For some reason they never got along; but then again, the brother also fought with the parents according to my friend. I never questioned what happened to the brother because it did seem like a sore spot for all of them. The only information I was given was when the brother turned legal age he packed up a bag and moved out of the house. He never gave a forwarding address or phone number; he did not want to have any contact with his parents or younger brother. I felt sad for the family. It did not seem as if the parents were these terrible, violent individuals who beat their kids. On the contrary, I found them to be always warm and loving. It was just weird to have 2 children raised in the same house who had completely opposite reactions to the family dynamics.      THERE IS A SCIENTIFIC, CULTURAL AND philosophical debate on what has a stronger influence on human behavior, nurture or nature. Nature would involve genetics and other biological factors, what we are born with; while nurture involves the environment around us, either prenatal or during a lifetime. As long as I can remember I have had a curiosity about the similarities and differences between siblings. My friends who had siblings were a constant source of discovery for me as I became aware of each of their traits. There was one friend who was social and outgoing; his younger brother was a practical jokester who was always getting into trouble. Then there was a family who lived down the street from me who had 4 children. Each child was a replica of the other; they were all smart in school, wore similar dress and shared the same mannerisms. I used to think the parents must have raised them in a controlled environment so that each one would be the same. It never occurred to me that they might have been all wired with similar traits. From seeing this film festival winning documentary, my curiosity has been fired up further because of the brothers’ unbelievable story of what happened to them.      BECOMING A FRESHMAN IN COLLEGE was the catalyst for strangers Eddy Galland, David Kellman and Robert Shafran to have the story of their lives re-written in ways they never imagined. Directed by Tim Wardle (One Killer Punch-TV movie, Lifers: Channel 4 Cutting Edge), this movie could have easily been classified as a mystery thriller. The story was so unimaginable I sat in my seat in a state of shock. The fact that things took place happenstance made these three men’s story more incredible. At first, I was slightly put off by the re-enactments, but it quickly waned as the story began to twist and turn into the 2ndstory that was lying beneath. The interviews interspersed into the story accentuated the storytelling factor; I found myself becoming a detective as the boys’ history was being revealed in chunks. There was this whole ethical factor that came up for me that lingered beyond the end of the picture. I have to say this was a stunner of a movie that adds fuel to the debate on whether nurture or nature has a stronger influence on human behavior. It just was troubling for me to be a witness to the events that took place in the lives of these three men.

 

3 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: The First Purge

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN my life I was more upset by what I saw in the theater than on the movie screen. The viewers who look or text on their phones while the film is playing upset me, but I simply find them rude; except for that one viewer who when asked to stop talking on her phone yelled back that she had to take the call. The people who have no consideration for those sitting around them are ignorant in my opinion. I just want to ask them to look around and notice they are not sitting at home in their living room; there are people sitting by them who paid to WATCH a movie. What I am talking about is a different kind of upset that has deeper implications. I do not want to offend anyone by what I am going to tell you; these are just my feelings I am putting down on paper, about what took place while I was waiting to watch this movie. Ironically, I was dreading seeing this latest installment because I knew there was going to be brutal violence and blood shown in multiple scenes. Instead I was appalled by several people who came in to see this movie.      GETTING TO MY SEAT A FEW minutes before the lights dimmed, I took a brief scan of the other people sitting in the movie theater. I was curious to see who wanted to see this picture; I was only there to review it. A few rows down and off to my right I noticed a man and woman sitting 2 seats apart from each other. It took me a moment for it to register but I suddenly realized there were 2 kids sitting between them. I was stunned; parents actually came with their children to see this R rated movie? What was wrong with them, I thought to myself. There was no way the parents did not know what this movie was about and what would be shown in it. Before the shock could subside in me, coming into the theater was another family with what appeared to be a 4 or 5-year-old child. Has the world suddenly gone mad? I was shocked; did the parents want to desensitize their kids to blood and violence or expose them to different ways one can kill another human? I am sorry but I found it disgusting and wondered what DCFS would have to say about it. To me this was worse than anything I was going to see in this action, horror film.      WITH THE RISE OF A THiRD political party into power, its platform included a new social experiment they believed would curtail crime. At least that is what they planned for it to show. With relative newcomer Y’Lan Noel as Dmitri, Lex Scott Davis (Superfly, Training Day-TV) as Nya, Marisa Tomei (The Big Short, Love is Strange) as Dr. Updale, Mugga (Precious, Orange is the New Black-TV) as Dolores and Joivan Wade (The Weekend, Doctor Who-TV) as Isaiah; this installment’s trailers showed what the viewer was going to get. What surprised me about the story was the message it conveyed; it mirrored the current times we presently live in. This aspect of the story was the highlight for me. Everything else about this picture was just more of the same; nothing different or new which I hope doesn’t mean I have become jaded to this franchise. I felt there was nothing scary in the predictable script except for the aspect of the story I mentioned earlier. For whatever reason, I will tell you I found it sad that Oscar winner Marisa agreed to take this role. Maybe it was my experience in the theater but it was more upsetting to see children being brought to this violent film than anything done in the movie itself.

 

1 ¾ stars   

Flash Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

THERE WAS A REASON WHY I was lingering by the drinking fountain. Next to it was the cycling studio and the door was open during a class. I was a guest at my friend’s health club; we were working out together. Since the door was open I was curious to see how the cycle instructor was instructing her class. In the short time I could stay within earshot, by drinking from the fountain and perusing the bulletin board, all I heard were instructions being given out in a somewhat monotone voice. Now you would think this was the proper thing to do and you would be correct. However, I have a slightly different philosophy when it comes to teaching a fitness class. Just as this instructor gave instructions I do the same thing, giving reminders throughout class about posture and placement of body parts. But then I also keep up a dialog of a variety of topics to, for lack of a better word, entertain the participants. For me, if I have to listen to an instructor who only gives instructions, I could get a similar workout by watching a DVD. I prefer my mind being distracted from the task at hand; so in turn, I share with my classes a variety of news stories and surveys I have read to make the class fun.      SPEAKING OF FUN DON’T YOU think life is more enjoyable when you can experience it in a fun way? I certainly feel I have traversed most of life’s pitfalls with the assistance of fun. If I think about it, I cannot off the top of my head think of anytime where having a fun or humorous element does not help soften a situation. One could say a funeral would not be an appropriate place to interject humor; however, I have attended funerals where humor provided a brief oasis of relief from the sadness. Thinking about both college and business lectures I have attended, the ones where I retained more information were the ones where the professor or lecturer made the session fun. The idea of going to an office every day and not hearing or experiencing at least a moment of laughter or joy sounds like torture to me. In my opinion a person would be less productive when there is the absence of a fun element in their daily work day. Think about those people you know who are miserable at work; they are the product of a day void of fun. Humor and fun can be found almost anywhere no matter what task we are performing; even a superhero can find something fun while saving someone. The proof can be found in this action, adventure film.      DESPITE THE CHALLENGES OF FATHERHOOD and his court enforced ankle monitor’s restrictions Scott Lang, played by Paul Rudd (This is 40, Our Idiot Brother), was determined to help Dr. Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas (Wonder Boys, Last Vegas), find his long-lost wife. Paul would discover a fun element in Dr. Pym’s daughter Hope Van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lilly (The Hobbit franchise, The Hurt Locker). This science fiction film was stocked with an abundance of witty humor. It gave this superhero picture a light vibe compared to the other superhero films that have recently come out. Paul was the perfect choice to portray Ant-Man, though I suspect his stunt double did most of the action scenes in this film. With Michael Pena (End of Watch, 12 Strong) as Luis and Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight, Tomb Raider) as Sonny Burch; the script was a bit hokey for me. Though I thought the special effects were outstanding, I felt the story was weak. I understood humor was the focus for this film, especially with Paul receiving part of the writing credits; but I would have preferred a more pronounced villainous element. Despite this I had a fun time watching the action taking place and as I stated earlier, it was all about the fun. There were two extra scenes in the middle and at the end of the credits.

 

3 stars           

Flash Movie Review: Boundaries

IF THERE IS SUCH A survey then I do not know about it. I am curious to see; when asked, how many children want to grow up and be like their parents? Back from my school days I remember reading a book that focused on parents who were toxic. Several of the families that were discussed in the book were shocking to me. There was a set of parents who had two sons. The older son committed suicide using a shotgun. For Christmas the following year, the parents gave their remaining son the same shotgun as a gift. What sort of message do you think that mother and father were trying to convey to their only remaining child? I still remember this example from all these years and have wondered from time to time whatever happened to that younger son. My guess would be he never wanted to grow up and be just like his parents. Now on the other hand, this past week I read that Heinrich Himmler’s daughter died recently. He was the architect of the Holocaust and she became known as the “Nazi Princess.” She denied the existence of the Holocaust, even after visiting a concentration camp. It sounds like she chose to grow up and be like her Dad.      ANOTHER ASPECT ABOUT THE CHILD/parent relationship I find fascinating is the similar traits that get established. I am not talking about the physical features; my interest is in the mannerisms, such as speech patterns, movement and quirks. I knew a family that had 2 children. Assuming both kids were treated equally, only the older child had the same mannerisms as the father; the younger one had no similar traits to either parent. This makes me wonder if there is something genetic that scientists have not discovered yet. Of course, I have considered learned traits; but certain things show me that may not always be the case. I have wondered if a child who has the same tastes in food as a parent was trained to be that way or maybe they came to their own decisions based on their own taste buds. Possibly they received the same genes as their parent when it came to their perceptions of flavors. The whole parent/child relationship thing is such a minefield in many ways. It reminds me of this line I heard a psychiatrist say once, “Just because they birthed you does not mean you have to love them.” I certainly thought of this while watching this comedic drama.      DUE TO HER FATHER BEING kicked out of his nursing home Laura, played by Vera Farmiga (The Commuter, Up in the Air) was forced to drive cross country to drop him off at her sister’s place. Little did she know there were going to be some unexpected stops. This film festival nominee starred Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World, A Beautiful Mind) as Jack Jaconi, Lewis MacDougall (A Monster Calls, Pan) as Henry, Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future franchise, The Addams Family franchise) as Stanley and Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man, Blue Jasmine) as Leonard. The acting was good overall but Christopher’s was exceptional. I enjoyed the dynamics that were created between him and Vera in this story. There were a few powerful scenes between them. Unfortunately, the script did not provide something new to this estranged family story that I have seen done before. It was not too hard to figure out where the story was going most of the time. Adding in the repetitive scenarios of Laura being upset, I soon found myself getting periodically bored at times. This movie is proof that a family’s dysfunction can be handed down from generation to generation.

 

2 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Uncle Drew

WE WERE LINED UP IN a single row, one behind the other. The gym teacher handed the basketball to the first boy, telling him to take a shot at the hoop. I looked up at the basketball hoop, with its netting that looked like something a fisherman had dragged through the ocean; it was ragged and gray as it lifelessly hung down. The first boy missed the hoop so he had to hand over the basketball to the next student standing in line. The 2nd boy made a basket which meant he got to take another turn. It was a simple game; for every basket a student made they could take another turn, otherwise hand off the ball to the next boy in line. My only experience playing with a basketball before was with my friends for a game called Horse. I had no desire to get involved with any type of competition that involved a ball at school; because, I had seen just how competitive and mean students were when they competed with each other. The student who was not as skilled as his teammates would be ridiculed and abused outside of the eyes and ears of the gym teacher.      LIVING IN A CITY THAT HAD a famous, winning basketball team you would think I would have gotten into the sport; you would be incorrect. I enjoyed watching the game but have never gone out of my way to devote time to sitting and watching it on TV. The players’ athletic abilities astound me, as well as their showmanship; that was about it for me. I may have mentioned this before but I have a hard time accepting the fact that athletes get paid millions of dollars for playing with a ball, while school teachers barely get by on their salaries and they are molding the minds of children. Now I am aware how team sports activities lend themselves to the bonds players form with each other. In high school the guys on the football or baseball team were inseparable; that was not necessarily the case for those on the debate or chess teams. It was rare to see a single football player walking down the school’s hallway without a buddy alongside of him. I am not judging this by the way; I think it is great when a student feels like they belong to something because I am aware of those who did not feel like they belonged. Let me tell you it is a whole different experience for the outsider. The proof can be found in this sport comedy film.      DRIVEN BY THE NEED TO SUCCEED due to a childhood basketball game incident Dax, played by Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, The Carmichael Show-TV) is determined to win the neighborhood basketball tournament. However when Mookie, played by Nick Kroll (Adult Beginners, My Blind Brother), steals Dax’ star basketball player; Dax is forced to seek out the basketball legend Uncle Drew, played by Kyrie Irving. Upon meeting him Dax has no idea how an old, white haired man could possibly play the game. With Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip, Meet the Spartans) as Jess, Erica Ash (Scary Movie 5, Survivor’s Remorse-TV) as Maya and Shaquille O’Neal (Steel, Kazaam) as Big Fella; it has been established I am not a big fan of basketball. The script started out slow for me, along with its easy predictability. What kept my interest through this picture, believe it or not, was the basketball playing. I was amazed by the “senior” basketball players’ skills; they were fun to watch. The jokes and humor were nothing special; but for this light fare it was fine. And because of the basketball playing on display in this film I have a new appreciation for the game of basketball.

 

2 ½ stars   

Flash Movie Review: Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado

THE TWO FRIENDS WERE PLAYING a board game they had played many times before. However, this time the game would have a different outcome. Not by very much, Friend #1 had acquired more winning pieces than Friend #2. This did not imply that winning was a sure thing for Friend #1. Halfway through the duration of the game Friend #2 decided to do an unexpected move that was never done before. When Friend #1 questioned the move, Friend #2 explained the reason for his move which essentially changed the rules of the game. This made no sense to Friend #1 so he challenged the sudden change in the rules. If the two of them had a discussion beforehand and agreed to this new rule Friend #1 would not have gotten upset; but without saying a word and just deciding to make a change because he was losing, Friend #1 was upset. The two of them argued back and forth, each one feeling they were in the right. Unfortunately, they never finished the game nor did they ever play it again; both were rather stubborn. I was Friend #1.      EVER SINCE THAT ARGUMENT I have always had a bad attitude towards anyone who changes the rules in the middle of something. Maybe because I am not a spontaneous person I have a hard time when plans are set and then something unexpected comes up to disrupt the plans or schedule. At least now I am much better at letting go and not letting the shift in plans upset me. The one place where I cannot do this though is at work. When payment terms have been established with a customer (I am in the credit department) and we ship out product to them; nothing riles me up more than a customer who decides to change the due date on their invoice. I take offense from this act which I know may sound looney to some of you; however, I feel business to business dealings need to follow rules to form trust between companies. When someone does not follow the rules how can a company or person interact with them? If one side abides by the rules and the other side doesn’t; who do you think will benefit from it? Sadly, the one who doesn’t I feel will come out on top more often. And if the rule follower decides to join the other side by not following the rules, the only thing it will produce is chaos. It becomes a dangerous world then and this dramatic crime thriller is proof.      ONCE THE MEXICAN CARTELS STARTED to smuggle terrorists into the United States, the rules the U.S. government had been following needed to be eliminated. There was one small strike team that could thrive in such an environment. This action-packed sequel starred Josh Brolin (Deadpool 2, Only the Brave) as Matt Graver, Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects, Escobar: Paradise Lost) as Alejandro, Isabela Moner (Transformers: The Last Knight, 100 Things to do Before High School) as Isabel Reyes, Jeffrey Donovan (Changeling, Burn Notice-TV) as Steve Forsing and Catherine Keener (Capote, Get Out) as Cynthia Foards. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat while watching this intense film. There were multiple scenes of blood and violence. The pacing of the story was consistent throughout and I especially enjoyed the acting from Benicio. Between the two films there was similarity in their look and action scenes; however one of the differences that stood out was not having a character that was a counterpoint to the others. The story needed a sympathetic person. Instead the script kept a constant sense of darkness and dread throughout the picture. In addition, the script could have used more variance with the emotional level. I know there are some rules that need to be broken and this action film broke a whole bunch of them.

 

3 stars      

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