Monthly Archives: January 2019

Flash Movie Review: If Beale Street Could Talk

ONE CAN NOT HELP BUT FEEL special as they walk into the building. The heavy glass doors with the gold trim are the first clue that one is about to enter a place that cannot be considered ordinary. The vestibule has a sturdy tiled floor; the low ceiling is held up by walls covered in deeply colored damask fabric. The material is framed in portions with an intricately carved plaster, painted in gold to match the trim of the doors. Entering the main lobby is not so dissimilar from walking into a grand hall of a European palace. Marble floors replacing the tile in front, there are huge crystal chandeliers that are longer in height than width. They look like oblong, translucent candy wrapped with intricately patterned, colored wrappers with the ends twisted shut. There are matching grand staircases both front and back with red velvet covered steps and oversized, limestone balustrades. One can only imagine they are used by royalty. Spaced equally between the two staircases are doors that all lead into an amphitheater. Undulating rows of seats perched on a sloping floor descend to a stage where a red colored curtain blocks everyone from seeing anything behind it. Only when the lights dim does the curtain rise to reveal the actors who were waiting behind it.      THERE IS A FEELING OF INCLUSION when one goes to see live theater. You could be sitting in the middle of a packed auditorium of strangers but feel as if the actors are bringing you into their story. I am a huge fan of seeing staged shows; there is something about seeing actors in the flesh compared to the big screen. Actors on stage have no chance for a retake; whatever happens they must be prepared to “go on with the show.” Seeing their emotions on display adds authenticity to the performance that I find connects me in a different way from actors in movies. Neither one is better than the other; it is simply a different form of communication. As you know I can get lost into a movie where I feel I am part of the movie; this is part of what I need to give a film a 4-star rating. At a play or musical the actors have more time to form relationships that carry them through the entire production. It connects them on a deeper level than acting in movies where they can do take after take of one scene. When I saw today’s film I felt I was at the theater watching a live performance.      WITH A BABY ON THE WAY Tish Rivers’, (played by relative newcomer KiKi Layne), joy was short-lived when the baby’s father Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt, played by Stephan James (Race, Across the Line), was arrested for a crime he did not do. This Golden Globe and film festival winning romantic, crime drama also starred Regina King (Ray, Enemy of the State) as Sharon Rivers, Colman Domingo (Selma, Lincoln) as Joseph Rivers and Michael Beach (Aquaman, Soul Food) as Frank Hunt. Based on James Baldwin’s novel, this film slowly unfolded to reveal a real-life portrayal of two families in Harlem. The acting was outstanding from every actor; I especially enjoyed the chemistry that KiKi and Stephan poured into their roles for each other. With a beautiful soundtrack and thoughtful cinematography, this was another achievement for writer and director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, Medicine for Melancholy). Scenes seemed to be grouped into a series of acts, where I felt I was watching entire and complete feelings between the characters. I honestly believed everything I was seeing was totally real. There is nothing more I need to say, except this picture was a perfect conduit between film and theater.

 

4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Generation Wealth

DOES THE FLAME FROM AN EXPENSIVE stove cook your food better than a flame from a cheap one? I have been wondering this since I had the opportunity to cook on a high-tech cooktop range. The knob lights up red when you turn a burner on, after emitting 3-4 clicks; I know it is a safety type of feature, but I am not sure what is clicking. This range and double ovens are something I have seen in real estate listings of high-end properties. I don’t know how, but I get a weekly email of places up for sale in the metropolitan area. Most of them are super luxurious; properties I have only seen in a movie or on the news. As I look through the photo gallery of rooms I am always struck by the amount of money it must have cost to furnish each room. Floors made of exotic woods, countertops of a vibrant mineral, light fixtures that dazzle the eyes; the places look like modern palaces. Some homes have so many rooms, I swear a person could easily get lost in them. And do you know what my biggest question is about these properties? Why does a person need so much?      PERSONAL WEALTH HAS BECOME SUCH A status symbol for society. When a person is rich, most people consider that individual successful. I do not feel that way. Just because a person makes a large amount of money doesn’t mean they are rich with kindness, compassion or love for example. Being a people watcher, I am always surprised when I see how children and adults treat their personal items. Kids abusing expensive electronic devices by throwing them on the floor or spilling stuff on them; I would not give them to a child until they were responsible enough to use it. There seems to be this obsession of acquiring the latest and greatest things, besides making ourselves look younger and more beautiful. I look at people who have had plastic surgery to make themselves appear younger and all I see is a face vacuum sealed onto a skull; they can barely move their lips and forget about being able to show emotion on their faces. Why does someone think lips plumped out to look like two pieces of sushi on their face is desirable? I think part of it is due to what is being marketed and advertised these days. This documentary delves into this obsession with wealth that seems prevalent throughout society.      WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY LAUREN GREENFIELD (The Queen of Versailles, Thin), this film festival nominee had an ambitious goal of showing us a multitude of examples regarding the theme of this movie. I have enjoyed Lauren’s previous works. She shows things to viewers; allowing them to make up their own minds, without being preachy. There were some startling scenes throughout this film that kept me engaged with the story line, but I found the message did not resonate as much. Using her own life as part of the story bogged down the flow of ideas; yet, I felt the topic was totally spot on as Lauren tackled wealth, status and fame. These three led into categories of plastic surgery and porn. Maybe if she would have cut back a bit to focus more on one of them, this picture would have been more direct. Though I never lost interest in this documentary, there was a part of me that felt nonplussed. Maybe because I am not monetarily wealthy or care about status and fame made me feel this way; but I will say, there was enough in this picture worth viewing.

 

2 ¼ stars — DVD 

Flash Movie Review: Second Act

A GOOD PORTION OF US WERE LED to believe that the ultimate goal in life was retirement. Put in your time at work and get to the finish line was all that mattered. For those who were fortunate to retire early, others would look at them as demigods; they found the secret formula that would let them enjoy life while they were still “young.” I had no such examples while growing up. The people I knew continued working well beyond their retirement age. When I started this movie review site, a friend asked if I would continue writing reviews into my retirement years. I imagined I would have the luxury of going to the movies during the early weekdays, freeing up my weekends that are presently being used for viewing multiple films. I do not see retirement as just sitting around the house with nothing to do. A friend of mine has determined retirement age is not an ending, but a beginning to the next chapter. It is a period of time where one can do something they are passionate about, where they want to explore it further now that they have the time to do so.     THERE ARE SOME INDIVIDUALS WHO DO not want to wait until retirement to do something they love. There was a member in one of my classes who was a CFO of a large corporation. She was proud of her work career, but as time went on she started feeling unsatisfied with the job. There was a period where she did not attend class, after being a regular for a few years. Then one day she showed up unexpectedly. After class she came up to talk to me. I said it was good to see her and hoped everything was okay. She informed me she had retired from her job and was taking classes to become a math teacher. It was something she had always wanted to do and decided the time was right to step back from the corporate world, so she could become a teacher. I was taken by surprise at first, since I knew how much she loved being a CFO. Seeing how driven she was in our aerobics class, I had no doubt she would succeed; she had the knowledge and passion. I feel these two attributes are needed if one wants to accomplish a dream. The main character in this dramatic comedy had these 2 things and will show you what can be done with them.      WORKING AT A LARGE RETAIL STORE was not what Maya, played by Jennifer Lopez (The Boy Next Door, Shades of Blue-TV), wanted to do the rest of her life. All she needed was a break to show what she could do for the advertising and marketing corporations on Madison Avenue. That break would come in the form of her resume. With Vanessa Hudgens (Dog Days, Beastly) as Zoe, Leah Remini (The Clapper, The King of Queens-TV) as Joan, Treat Williams (The Congressman, What Happens in Vegas) as Anderson Clarke and Milo Ventimiglia (Killing Season, This is Us-TV) as Trey; this movie could have been better. Jennifer has a screen presence that grabs your attention, but with the underdeveloped script she was left hanging. There was nothing special in the script that allowed the story to rise above generic. The writers had a touch of romance, comedy, drama and fun scattered throughout the story; yet, never went deeper with them. At one point I wondered if the focus was to show off Jennifer with her fashion choices, office and home furnishings in her new apartment. Maybe if the film studio had some of the drive and determination I have seen in Jennifer’s career, then they would have produced a more entertaining picture.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Escape Room

THE FIRST TIME I WENT TO A large scale amusement park, I wound up crying. I was used to the neighborhood amusement park that had rides that were geared to kids; but at this larger park I was not tall enough to ride the roller coasters. The fact that there was more than one roller coaster had at first surprised and thrilled me. Sadly, it only added more disappointment to my sadness. While my relatives waited in line for the coasters, one adult relative had to sit with me on a park bench that was designated as the destination spot for everyone to meet up again after the ride. If there was an easy ride close by without a long line, then I was able to ride it and get back before my relatives arrived. This was not the best consolation prize, but at least it was something to entertain and distract me. It only satisfied me for the moment until we all met up and I had to hear about the thrills the roller coasters provided for my relatives. And to add salt to the wound; by the time I was old enough to ride the roller coasters, the closest amusement park we used to visit the most closed down for good.      FAST FORWARD TO RECENT TIMES WHERE it has been many years since I had ridden any roller coasters. I was at an event out of state next to a national amusement park. There were plenty of opportunities during the week to go to the park; which by the way had several famous roller coaster rides. Times sure changed for me as I discovered the waiting lines could take over an hour before getting on the ride. Nonetheless, I was successful on my first attempt at one of the large roller coasters. I was only riding it for several seconds before I realized I was getting queasy. My head started hurting as I was hurled through tunnels, turned upside down and spun around hairpin turns. I had to close my eyes and do everything I could not to get sick during what turned into a torturous ride. First, I was too young to ride roller coasters and now I was too old; here I thought I would have had so many years of riding and enjoying roller coasters. Truthfully, though, I do not feel like I am missing anything; once you ride a few they all seem to be similar and that is how I felt about this dramatic, mystery science fiction film.      WITH AN OPPORTUNITY TO WIN $10,000.00, a group of strangers find themselves in a game that did not advertise it would end in life or death. With Deborah Ann Woll (Mother’s Day, True Blood-TV) as Amanda, Taylor Russell (Before I Fall, Dead of Night) as Zoey, Tyler Labine (Flyboys, The X-Files-TV) as Mike, Logan Miller (Before I Fall; Love, Simon) as Ben and Adam Robitel (2001 Maniacs, Cut/Print) as Gabe; the opening scenes held my interest. I could see where the premise of the story had potential; however, as the group of strangers went from one escape room to another it became the same to me with little difference. It felt like I was watching a cross between the Saw movies and the film A Cabin in the Woods. There just did not seem to be much surprise that held my interest. I also did not care for the way the story ended but understood what the writers and movie studio were hoping to accomplish—a film sequel. Maybe if I had not seen other pictures that did this type of genre better, I would have enjoyed this film more. As it stands, I won’t be disappointed or feel like I will miss something if they never do a sequel.

 

1 ¾ stars     

Flash Movie Review: Welcome to Marwen

THE POOR THING HAD ONE EYE that did not close. Despite it and the lost finger on her left hand, she was a constant companion to the little girl. It was the little girl’s 2nd birthday when she received this doll that has never left her side since then. At meal time the doll had a place at the dining room table with her own little plate and glass, that the child would lift to the doll’s face to eat the imaginary food and drink. As far as I could remember the doll was always a part of our gatherings. After many years, the last time I heard about the doll she was residing on a shelf in the attic. It is amusing to me, but I never considered my toy soldiers as being dolls. In my mind they were soldiers and I was their commander. With the elaborate battle plans I would create, my soldiers were vital in keeping an open pathway to the pantry in our kitchen—go figure! From time to time I received superhero dolls as presents; but in my mind they were superheroes, not dolls. Isn’t it funny that back then we were taught dolls were only for girls?      SINCE THAT TIME DOLLS HAVE BEEN marketed to both girls and boys. I remember a friend’s son used to play with a male doll that wore a railroad conductor’s hat and overalls. Besides that “revolutionary” evolution, dolls are now used in several fields of thought. They can be found in therapy sessions, criminal investigations, as well as physiology classes. There was a psychologist I used to know who regularly used dolls in her sessions with younger children. When a child was not yet at an age to articulate the actions and feelings they experienced, dolls were useful tools to find out what happened to the child. Dolls also had a role with the psychologist’s couple counseling sessions. Some kind of role playing exercises if I am remembering correctly. So, you can certainly see how things have changed in our perceptions of dolls; they are no longer simply toys for kids. And I am just now recalling, wasn’t there a recent winner of a television reality, talent show who did ventriloquism, making a doll talk and sing? I understand she has a blossoming career, with appearances and TV specials. With today’s movie you can see another way how dolls play a vital function in some people’s lives.      AFTER A VISCIOUS ATTACK THAT DESTROYED his memory Mark Hogancamp, played by Steve Carell (Vice, Beautiful Boy), found a unique way to rebuild the life taken away from him. It was a particular set of female dolls that would lead him onto the road to recovery. This comedic drama based on a true story also starred Falk Hentschel (White House Down, Transcendence) as Captain Topf/Louis, Matt O’Leary (Frailty, Live Free or Die Hard) as Lieutenant Benz/Carl, Leslie Mann (The Other Woman, How to Be Single) as Nicol and Nikolai Witschl (Deadpool 2, The Magicians-TV) as Rudolph/Ruby. The story behind this movie seems incredible and amazing to me. My favorite part of this picture was the dolls; visually they were fun to watch. As for the script, I found it scattered all over the place. Steve did a decent job with his acting; but for such a story, the writers needed to dig deep down and bring out way more emotions than what I saw on the screen. For the dolls having played an important part in Mark’s life, they needed to have substance here; they came off as whimsical characters, in my opinion. Also, I was not sure the writers did justice to the topic of traumatic brain injuries. This biographical film was easily forgettable.

 

1 ½ stars     

Flash Movie Review: Holmes & Watson

THE ONLY WAY TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT is to not have hopes or expectations. Sounds simple but it really is not. I have learned to avoid placing expectations on people’s behaviors. We all react to situations in a different way; one is not better or worse than the other. Trouble starts when an individual makes statements that use the word, “should;” something like, “You should have known…” This actually was a hard lesson for me to learn, where I would react to what I thought a person should have said or done. It took me a long time to realize no one has the right to tell me how to feel, that I am the only one responsible for how I am feeling. However, as we each go through our daily life there are things that crop up that disappoint us. For example, going to a particular restaurant to get your favorite dish and it winds up they are out of it. Seeing an article of clothing that you feel is perfect for you, only to find it does not look good on you or does not do what it was advertised to do. Things like this can cause us to feel disappointed; we had our mind set for one thing, but then the reality did not match our expectations.      THE PAST HOLIDAY IS SOMETHING I look forward to because the movie studios release what they believe will be their heavy Oscar contenders and audience blockbusters. Every year I spend most of the day at the theater watching one movie after another. This year was no different and in fact, I was extra excited because a couple of limited release films were opening at a theater near me. I studied the movie times to figure out what would produce the maximum viewing experience. This also was taking into consideration the duration of the movie trailers; the average amount of time devoted to them is around 20 minutes. I was starting the day at one theater to watch three films then drive to another theater to finish up with 3 more. After finding a parking spot at the 2ndtheater I walked in to discover the films I needed to see were all sold out for the present time slots. Even rearranging start times did not help me; there was only one movie available and I had no desire to see it. The reason being, I saw the trailers and the main star does the same thing for every movie with no discretion towards the scripts. I was so disappointed and after watching this comedy I was even more disappointed that I wasted my time on this picture instead of one of the ones I had on my list.      ONLY ONE DETECTIVE COULD FIND THE CULPRIT who was threatening the queen of England and that was Sherlock Holmes, played by Will Ferrell (Daddy’s Home franchise, Get Hard). With the help of his trusted friend Watson, played by John C. Reilly (The Sisters Brothers, Life After Beth), the two would have to work fast to save the queen. This adventure crime film was one of the worst movies I have seen the past year. How it got saved to be released during the holiday season was baffling to me. There was nothing funny since the jokes were noticeable a mile away and were of the lowest level of anything remotely humorous. I was bored out of my mind and angry that I had to pay to be subjected to this mess. Will has done the same schtick in his comedies for so long that his actions and acting must be on autopilot. Notice I did not list the rest of the main actors because I did not want to embarrass them any further.

 

1 1/4 stars

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