Monthly Archives: November 2018

Flash Movie Review: Beautiful Boy

THOUGH THE CLERGYMAN TOLD ME HIS tragic story years ago, it all came back to me as I was watching this emotional film. I was friends with this clergyman, not a person who attended his church. I do not recall how we wound up talking about this individual, but our conversation was about relationships. Let me first say I have not had much exposure to individuals with addictions. Sure, I have some friends who drink in excess from time to time, but they tend to only get that way at a celebration event or weekend party and not on a consistent basis. The clergyman started telling me about a couple he knew, never divulging how or where he knew them. They were together for something like 15+ years, both employed with no children. At some point in time the husband started experiencing mood swings. At first, they were not so dramatic; but as time went on, they became more intense. The husband was losing weight and he was away from home for longer periods of time. I am not sure if the wife tried to find out what was going on, but the outcome was so sad. It turned out the husband was addicted to drugs. Not only did he wipe out their savings account, he lost their house.      WHEN THE CLERGYMAN TOLD ME THIS story I could not believe such a thing could happen. On the one hand I wondered how the wife did not know bills and past due notices were being ignored; but then on the other hand, if his responsibilities were the financial dealings, how could the husband let things get so out of hand. You see, I did not know addictions could be that debilitating. I did not, nor do I still know, how dangerous addictions can be. Granted, my exposure to this type of disease pretty much revolves seeing it on the big screen, but still I do have an inkling. Since it has not touched me personally, I feel I have this buffer zone around me that isolates me from experiencing the horrors of addiction. For me, I have always looked at addiction as being a tool to fill a void in one’s life. Something is lacking so the person focuses on trying to fill an emotional need. Drugs and alcohol are the first 2 things that come to mind, but I guess almost anything done in excess can be considered an addiction. This dramatic movie based on a true story allows you to experience the tragedy caused by addiction without being a part of it.      NEVER IN HIS WILDEST DREAMS DID David Sheff, played by Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes, The Big Short), ever think the beautiful boy he raised would wind up being someone he no longer understood. This dramatic biographical film also starred Timothee Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name, Lady Bird) as Nic Sheff, Maura Tierney (Insomnia, Forces of Nature) as Karen Barbour, Amy Ryan (Escape Plan, Gone Baby Gone) as Vicki Sheff and Jack Dylan Grazer (It; Me, Myself and I-TV) as young Nic Sheff. The best part of this picture was the acting, hands down. Steve and Timothee were exquisite together as father and son. Timothee’s acting in particular is something special to watch. His transformation throughout this story was mesmerizing. Not that any of the other actors were slouches; they all did a fine job here. My only complaint was I felt for the topic the emotions on display could have been rawer. There was a slight repetitiveness to the script that came across without much variance. Still I could not look away at what I was seeing on the big screen. Truly a command performance of a brutal addiction.

 

3 stars   

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Flash Movie Review: The Girl in the Spider’s Web

FROM THE CLASSES I ATTENDED AND the personal stories that were shared with me, I would have thought after all this time I would have a better understanding about the parent/child relationship. Even to this day I still can be surprised by the things I see and hear regarding children and their parents. There is a mother I know who was told by her daughter that the only way she could see her grandchildren would be if she goes into therapy. That is all I know but I can assume something intense happened between the daughter and her mother. There is a father I know who has many prejudices; essentially, he doesn’t like anyone. His daughter is the complete opposite, gratefully. It has come to the point where the daughter tries to avoid social functions with her Dad because she knows he will be offending someone before the evening is over. This is the thing that fascinates me; where the daughter turns out to be a complete opposite to her father, there are other children who turn into their parent(s). How does that happen? I know a man who has the same prejudices as his deceased father; it makes me wonder what type of environment the boy was raised in. As I have said before, no one is born being a racist, sexist or prejudiced; it is something that gets taught.      NOW WHEN IT COMES TO BULLYING and abuse, studies have shown a majority of those who act these out were themselves victims to it. I believe it because I have seen it happen. There was a kid in my neighborhood who was a bully; he took pleasure in tormenting other kids. It turns out his dad picked on him, hitting or slapping him besides calling him names. Of course, it doesn’t excuse the son’s behavior and I am guessing the father was abused or bullied when he was a kid. When I was in college one of my classes spent time looking at ways to stop this vicious cycle of abusers creating more abusers. Think about it; parents are supposed to be the protectors of their children. It seems to me when something is off, the home environment becomes a breeding ground for the unhealthy behavior to flourish and be handed down generation to generation. I find it awful and sad. There was a time in school where I felt every human being needed to go into therapy; to help them understand themselves and become of sound mind and body. This certainly would apply to the sisters in this dramatic, crime thriller.      HAVING A REPUTATION FOR BEING A BRILLIANT computer hacker; how then was Lisbeth Salander, played by Claire Foy (First Man, Unsane), set up so easily? It would have to be from someone she knew. With Beau Gadsdon (The Crown-TV, Rogue One: A Stars Wars Story) as young Lisbeth, Sverrir Gudnason (A Serious Game, Borg vs McEnroe) as Mikael Blomkvist, Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You, Selma) as Ed Needham and Sylvia Hoeks (Blade Runner 2049, The Best Offer) as Camilla Salander; this movie was mostly all about the action. I thought Claire did a fine job in the role, but it did not stretch her due to the weak script. By the end of the story I found the script to be silly and a letdown. There were a few exciting scenes; but I found most of the acting one dimensional, without much focus to it. While watching some scenes I thought it was odd that Lisbeth could be easily followed considering she was such a computer “genius.” If the producers plan to churn out this level of work, then we need an intervention to make them stop.

 

1 ¾ stars

Flash Movie Review: Overlord

I MEAN NO DISRESPECT TO ALL the understudies I have seen in theatrical productions, but the shows where the understudy stepped in for the headlining Broadway star left me feeling slightly disappointed. It was especially difficult for me when the show I was seeing was slated to open on Broadway, after its trial run. If it means anything I would feel the same type of disappointment if I bought tickets to a Florida amusement park and its major top ride was not open due to repairs. Am I any different from anyone else who wants to get exactly what they paid for? Now I will say when there is not a major actor in a theatrical production I do not pay attention to see if any of the roles will be played by an understudy. I guess I have always had faith in the producers and director that they have chosen a competent actor who could do the part just as well as the actor who was originally cast. A thought just came to me; I would be totally disappointed if I went to a restaurant for a specific meal I enjoyed only to find out they were not serving it that day. I feel disappointment is simply a part of human nature.      THERE HAVE BEEN CERTAIN MOVIES I have seen that disappointed me. Maybe my expectations were set high due to the actors or director involved, but there have been times where I questioned why the film studio chose to make such a film. I remember when I was a kid there was a television show hosted by a man dressed up as a ghoul, warlock or zombie of some kind. It aired every week on the weekend, showing these old dated films. I always wondered if these pictures were ever released in a theater. There was a term for these kinds of movies; they were called “B movies.” Mainly they were low budget films; so, the actors were not the most poplar and the sets/costumes were not the best quality or sophistication. On a rainy Saturday I used to enjoy sitting down and watching these pictures. Some of the stories I remember were about killer tomatoes, 50-foot tall women and crazy aliens aka human beings in cheap looking rubber suits. B movie stories were always easy to follow as the scripts were kept to the minimum, both in words and depth of emotions. If you are not familiar with this type of film, this picture I believe wanted to come off as one of those B movies from a long time ago.     ORDERED TO TAKE OUT A VITAL GERMAN radio tower on the eve of D-Day, a small group of soldiers discover something behind enemy lines that could change the course of history. This horror mystery movie starred Jovan Adepo (Fences, Mother!) as Boyce, Wyatt Russell (22 Jump Street, Everybody Wants Some!!) as Ford, Mathilde Ollivier (The Misfortunes of Francois Jane) as Chloe, Pilou Asbaek (Ghost in the Shell, Game of Thrones-TV) as Wafner and John Magaro (The Big Short, Liberal Arts) as Tibbet. For me this picture had a strong retro vibe. The reason I say this is because most of the special effects were done the old-fashioned way, with makeup and costumes instead of CGI. The story was simple which allowed the writers to focus on an abundance of action scenes. I did not mind these scenes but after a while it seemed as if I was watching one long chase scene, going back and forth from the Nazis winning one round to the US forces winning the next and so on. Overall this movie was more of a novelty for me, something that belonged on television during a rainy Saturday afternoon.

 

1 ¾ stars         

Flash Movie Review: The Grinch

MY FRIEND HAD A NAME FOR those types of individuals; she called them, “Happiness Vampires.” It was the perfect name I thought. A “Happiness Vampire” is a person who cannot celebrate and be a part of someone else’s happiness; they instead try to suck the happiness out of that person. I would even go a step further by saying these “Happiness Vampires” only feel good about themselves when someone else is feeling bad. That is so twisted I think. I believe all of us have encountered these dour people sometime in our lives, even if they were not at the time acting out on their negativity. My friend who came up with this term figured it out after dating this person for almost one year. I guess because she was in the throes of falling in love, she did realize what he was doing to her. His method was like a sneak attack because he would appear to be happy and congratulatory for her, but then would express these negative scenarios or possible repercussions that could happen to her. Pretty soon her good mood would dim and turn sour, leaving her depressed while her “boyfriend” would build himself up as her shining knight who would save her. I was so happy when she finally dumped him.      RECENTLY I ATTENDED A DINNER PARTY where I encountered a guest who turned out to be a “Happiness Vampire.” It was an elegant affair with some prominent people in attendance. When I was introduced to this one individual I suddenly was hit with a bad feeling. It was as if the air was being sucked out around me with a vacuum cleaner. He was short and squat in stature; if you would place him at a fast food restaurant’s salad bar he would fit in perfectly. The person who introduced me to this individual was a successful financial man in his own right; however, this sour man quickly took an opportunity to build himself up by tossing a negative comment (some say back-handed compliment) about this prominent person. The reason he did such a thing was to talk about something he felt was a big success in his career. I caught it right away and just stood there listening to this man go on about his so-called accomplishments. The real successful individual also stood there with a smile on their face that looked like it was painted on with Botox; it did not budge the entire time the other man carried on about himself. He tried to take away our good feelings like the Grinch in this animated, family comedy but we did not let him succeed.      BASED ON DR. SEUSS’ BELOVED BOOK, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas;” this movie had Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Doctor Strange) voicing The Grinch, Cameron Seely (The Greatest Showman, The Jim Gaffigan Show-TV) voicing Cindy-Lou Who, Rashida Jones (The Social Network, Parks and Recreation-TV) voicing Donna Who and musical artist Pharrell Williams as the Narrator. This story has been done many times before in different mediums; so, there was nothing new that came as a surprise except of all things Benedict’s performance. I did not care for his vocal acting; I thought he was not sinister enough for the character. Visually the movie was fun to watch (even the ending credits) and I enjoyed some of the Grinch’s exploits; but I felt this version of the Grinch was more of a lightweight compared to those Grinch’s of Christmas past. This film is well suited for younger children, but adults may get a bit tired of it. Of course, if you have never seen a movie version of Dr. Seuss’ book before then you might want to check this picture out; it almost seems as if it is a holiday tradition.

 

2 ¼ stars        

Flash Movie Review: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

EVERY GENERATION DOESN’T KNOW IT, BUT they will be contributing at least one thing that will become a classic through time. The word “classic” can be defined as a standard or work of excellence that has been judged over a period of time. Some examples of classic objects would be the trench coat, a particular glass measuring cup, certain toys like a famous red wagon, the novel “Moby Dick” and the Mona Lisa painting. What would not be considered a classic would be elephant bell bottomed pants or puka shell necklaces. Do you remember when that soft drink company changed the formula of their flagship cola drink? They had to bring back the original formula and tacked on the word “classic” to its name. I think from any class of objects there will always be an item that will pass the length of time to become a classic. In fashion, home goods, architecture or music; something will endure for generations to come. One thing that comes to mind is the music from the Beatles. Look at how many times their songs have been done and redone over and over; I assume most everyone from every age group knows of them.      IF YOU LOOK AT THE ARTS you will find certain things that never go out of style. When I was younger I did not understand why people would go to a symphony concert to hear the same piece of music that they have heard several times before. Sure, it might be a different conductor or orchestra; but I did not realize how the beauty of the music moved the individuals. The same goes for ballet; I still remember the 1st time I saw the Nutcracker Suite ballet. I had to sit on top of a folded jacket that was placed on the seat, so I could see over the heads in front of me. Seeing the Mouse King, the Sugar Plum fairy and the Nutcracker dancing across the stage was a magical experience. I started to understand the concept of what makes something classic after I returned to see the ballet a 2nd time with other relatives the following year. While watching the dancers I would glance at the relatives near me, noticing their laser like gazes out of joyful facial expressions. If I remember correctly, one holiday I received a music recording of the ballet. I used to play it over and over. Sadly, that will not be the case for this family, adventure fantasy.      THE GIFT CLARA, PLAYED BY MACKENZIE FOY (The Twilight Sage franchise, The Conjuring), received from her deceased mother was missing a key. With the help of her godfather Drosselmeyer, played by Morgan Freeman (Going in Style, The Dark Knight franchise), Clara found herself in a magical world where toys had come to life. With Helen Mirren (Winchester, Woman in Gold) as Mother Goose, Keira Knightley (Colette, The Imitation Game) as Sugar Plum and Jayden Fowora-Knight (Ready Player One) as Phillip; this movie was all about the visuals. With lush and imaginative scenery and costumes, along with the tidbits of the Nutcracker Suite’s score, I was shocked at the lackluster script. Helen and Keira were the bright stars of this picture, but they had to deal with the wooden and I mean wooden performances around them. I think younger kids would be scared by the Mouse King’s subjects, when they would come together to form their giant mouse. This was such a mish mosh of story lines that I became bored halfway through the story. With such a classical story and musical score at their disposal, I could not believe the movie studio thought they were creating something special. By the time I got to the theater’s parking lot I had already forgotten about this film; luckily, I still had waiting for me at home the recording of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite to play.

 

1 ¾ stars                 

Flash Movie Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

THERE ARE PEOPLE WE ENCOUNTER WHOSE footsteps leave an impression on our life’s path. These individuals strike us in various ways; by their energy, intellect, passion, athleticism and heart for example. The memory they leave after they are gone can be stored inside of us for years without ever being detected. Then suddenly that person reappears, possibly in a different capacity, and that memory pops into our consciousness. Our brain gets flooded with the images retained during the years; we completely understand now why they left an impression on us. This is something I have experienced through my life. I mentioned in an earlier review about a classmate of mine who wrote stories about his time in the war. Several years had passed after being in that class and there he was on the cover of a magazine for winning a prestigious literary award. There was a television interview of him and he pretty much looked the same with his large, piercing blue eyes with eyelids that looked heavy to blink. After that interview he showed up in multiple newspaper and magazine articles. I remember smiling to myself as I remembered our time in class, listening to his war stories and the toll they took on him.      THERE IS ANOTHER PERSON I SAW who immediately made a big impression on me and his name was Freddie Mercury. I cannot remember the details on how I got to the concert where this relatively new group called Queen was playing. It was after their 1st or 2nd album I think. What I still remember besides the band members was how my ears were ringing due to the loudness of the sound. Right from the opening song, Freddie had everyone’s attention. All he had to do was say either “stand up” or “clap like this…” once and the entire crowd would do as they were told. He had a magnetism that nearly forced you to keep your eyes riveted onto him. His body movements were dramatic and theatrical. Then there was his voice; he could always be heard no matter how loud the band played. John Deacon barely moved from his spot while Brian May’s guitar playing was featured from time to time throughout the performance. I remember the sounds he would make with his guitar were notes I could not recall hearing before. I knew right then that they were a unique band and Freddie was someone I had never seen before or would see again. You can imagine how curious I was to see this biographical, dramatic movie.      CREATING A SOUND LIKE NONE OTHER before them, the four guys who made up the band Queen would leave a lasting impression on the musical scene; both for their skills and personal lives. With Rami Malek (Short Term 12, Mr. Robot-TV) as Freddie Mercury, Gwilym Lee (The Tourist, Midsomer Murders-TV) as Brian May, Ben Hardy (Only the Brave, X-Men: Apocalypse) as Roger Taylor and Joseph Mazzello (The Social Network, The Cure) as John Deacon; this musical film focused mostly on the life story of Freddie. If you never had the chance to see Queen perform then you will enjoy this picture more than those of you who were fortunate enough to see them. I thought the script was too sanitized; offering only a taste of what the band members, I believe, went through in their time together. Rami did a decent job, but the fake teeth looked odd on him. The lip synching was okay, but I just felt the script and direction needed more punch because I found myself getting slightly bored. Again, I must state those who never saw Queen perform might enjoy this movie more, though we were only given a brief taste of their songs.

 

2 1/2 stars    

Flash Movie Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

WE WERE SITTING IN A CIRCLE with each of us prepared to read what we had wrote the past week. There was one student in the writing group who consistently wrote violent action into his stories. If he mentioned a car crash he could not just leave it at that, letting the listener use their imagination. He had to describe in detail every broken bone, laceration or bloody death associated with the crash, fight, murder or accident. The rest of us in class had a difficult time paying attention to his stories because the scenes he created were uncomfortable to hear spoken. There was another student who already had a book published about his time in the military during a major conflict. His stories continued the same theme; there was always a military presence in his stories. When it was my turn to read, I had my typed pages neatly stacked on my lap; so, it was easy for me to handle the length of time we were allowed to talk. After reading my story out loud a fellow student said my writing style was similar to Vladimir Nabokov. I was stunned; mainly because he was one of my top favorite writers, along with Charles Dickens, Yukio Mishima and Herman Melville.      WHAT AN HONOR FOR A PEER to say such a thing to me. I would never compare myself to Nabokov, but I must tell you I was flying high the rest of the day. It started me thinking about the times I compared someone I knew to a famous or well-known celebrity. To the best of my recollection I only did it when it would be compliment. I mean really, how rude would it be to tell a friend they are acting just like so and so, who did a similar thing that got them arrested. Think about all the times sportscasters compare an athlete to a former one; it really must be an honor for an athlete to hear such a thing I would imagine. There is that proverb that states: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” For the most part I would agree with this, but I do have an issue with it when someone is doing it without putting in any effort or thought. There was an employee I taught with who never took the time to learn the reasons and mechanics behind weight training. All they wanted to do was go to other instructors’ classes and see what exercises they were doing. Once memorized this person would do the same ones in their classes. I did not think that was right, just as I thought the author in this film festival nominated biography was not right for what she did.      WHEN HER CELEBRITY BIOGRAPHIES FELL OUT of favor the only way author Lee Israel, played by Melissa McCarty (Life of the Party, The Boss) thought she could earn money was to add her words to the letters of famous deceased celebrities. It turned into a lucrative business. With Richard E. Grant (Penelope, Gosford Park) as Jack Hock, Dolly Wells (45 Years, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Anna and Jane Curtin (I Love You, Man; Third Rock from the Sun-TV) as Marjorie; this comedic crime film was based on Lee Israel’s memoir. The story came alive due to Melissa and Richard; they were so good together and I must say this was a smart move for Melissa after her recent dreadful movie, The Happytime Murders. She was wonderful in this role, assisted by the beautiful direction and script. The story slowly unfolded as Lee sinks to a desperate state and yet, she remains a somewhat sympathetic character. I really enjoyed watching this unbelievable story and might not be far out on a limb to say Melissa may earn a nomination this award season.

 

3 ½ stars

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