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Flash Movie Review: Snatched

FIRST introduced in the 1960s these toaster pastries have been sampled by millions of people. They were a novel idea; some ate them in lieu of a full breakfast, while others snacked on them between meals or as a dessert. I am sure the idea of having a convenient sweet item with a long shelf life was a revelation for many people. When they first came out there were only 4 flavors: blueberry, strawberry, brown sugar cinnamon and apple. Presently there is a variety of flavors and frostings to cover almost anyone’s taste preferences. Just on the news recently there was a report the manufacturer teamed up with a candy company to come out with candy flavored fillings in these pastries. My first reaction to this combination was negative. But as I thought about it I realized I had not had one of these pastries in decades. If there was a market for these flavor combinations, who was I to judge them? It was not like the other fillings were not sweet, so what would be the difference except personal tastes.     WHENEVER something is going well, it almost never fails the company looks for other ways to cash in on their success. Take a look at the fashion industry; if a designer has success with their line of clothing pretty soon their name could pop up on kitchen products, home furnishings or sports related products. Personally the name is not what motivates me to make the purchase; it depends on value and worth for me, besides liking it or not. I sort of feel the same way about movies. If the story looks good, I would go see it regardless of who the studio cast for the roles. Since I enjoyed the previous movies by both of the actresses in this comedy, I was sure I would have a good time watching this film. The buzz surrounding this movie was the addition of the one actress who had been away from acting in pictures for over a decade. Everywhere you looked the talk was how the 2 main actresses would be great together.     AFTER Emily, played by Amy Schumer (Trainwreck, Inside Amy Schumer-TV) was dumped by her boyfriend the only person she could get to take his place on the non-refundable vacation package she bought was her mother Linda, played by Goldie Hawn (The First Wives Club, Death Becomes Her). The trip would bind the mother and daughter in ways neither ever imagined. With Ike Barinholtz (Suicide Squad, The Mindy Project-TV) as Jeffrey, Wanda Sykes (Evan Almighty, Monster-in-Law) as Ruth and Joan Cusack (Working Girl, Say Anything) as Barb; the story started out fun. I enjoyed the style of humor and jokes. Unfortunately the story or to be more exact the script quickly went south, no pun intended. The majority of the scenes turned into a mixture of crudeness, silliness or non-believability. I was embarrassed for Joan in particular in regards to her role. It was such a waste of a prolific actress; which leads me to Goldie and her role. Though I was happy to see Goldie back in a movie and she really gave it a good try here, the script did her no favors. If the writers had focused as much energy on the script as the studio did on Goldie, something hilarious could have happened here. Instead I was left with very little to laugh about or enjoy.

 

1 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Circle

WATCHING me stand in line at the grocery checkout line cannot be very exciting. The most someone would see is me arranging my items on the conveyor belt according to description, such as frozen or produce. Only other thing one could witness is me holding coupons in my hand. I have no issue with any of the security cameras throughout the store. In fact I do not even pay attention to any of the cameras that have been installed in public places. The thing that freaks me out is on a personal level. For example I was online looking for a small shelving unit; I went to 2 or 3 different sites without finding anything suitable. Would you believe the very next time I checked into one of my social media accounts, right there on the welcome page, was an advertisement for shelving units? How did the site know I was looking for shelving units?! This made me uncomfortable as if I was being watched in my very own home.     AS the world becomes more tech savvy I feel like I am turning into a dinosaur. I do not know if it some kind of paranoia on my part, but I have always been a private person. Keeping the window shades pulled down in the house is preferable than having pedestrians walking by out front peering in; not that there is anything going on, I just do not want people looking into my space. There was a news article about these new talking assistant devices for the home being hacked, so someone can listen to the conversations taking place in the house and sometimes respond to them without being asked. Am I the only one who finds that disturbing? It has come to the point if I do not know the origin of an email I will delete it. At my office anything that comes in unfamiliar to me I have sent to our MIS department to investigate; I just do not want to take a chance on my computer becoming infected with a virus. Sitting through this dramatic thriller made me uncomfortable for more than one reason.     WITH the help of a friend Mae, played by Emma Watson (Beauty and the Beast, Harry Potter franchise), got a job interview with a premier high tech company. This job would offer a big change in her life, but at what cost? This film also starred Tom Hanks (Sully, Bridge of Spies) as Bailey, Bill Paxton (Titanic, Apollo 13) in one of his final roles as Vinnie and John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Attack the Block) as Ty. As the story started out I wondered if this movie was a satire about a current popular tech company; there seemed to be several similarities. I felt the idea was sound, but the script was poorly done and amateurish to the point where I was periodically bored. There were some good scenes but there were times where a scene did not make any sense. For example the character of Ty was odd right from the start and it was obvious why he was in the story. I liked Emma’s acting and felt she tried her best, but hearing some of the words coming out of her mouth just made me cringe. If the writers were hoping to scare the audience with the subject matter, they missed their mark; this could have been a better movie if everyone involved was watching what they were doing.

 

1 ¾ stars    

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Free Fire

THEY knew it was one of my favorite musicals which made them think of me. A relative of theirs was performing in a local, community production; so they offered me the extra ticket in their possession. I am a supporter of the arts, enjoying a variety of venues available all over my city. Normally I would jump at the chance to attend a staged production; however, when it comes to certain plays or musicals I tend to be more cautious. The reason is because those few productions that are my all-time favorites I pretty much have committed to memory; every note, dance move and set design. Going to see anything less than a spectacular production would disappoint me. Do not get me wrong, I have tried many times. I could be sitting on an old rickety, folding chair in some small community center’s space pretending to be an auditorium and if everything is on point I am over the moon with joyous excitement. However if an errant musical note is played or a singer is off pitch it ruins the entire experience for me.     ULTIMATELY it is a trade-off I suppose; if a person is willing to gamble and hope for the best they will go for it. But I have a question for you; let us say strawberries are one of your favorite things to eat. You eat them fresh from the garden as well as using them in your baking and making of smoothies. How satisfied would you be to eat something that uses artificial flavoring to make it taste like strawberry? If I had a choice between homemade chocolate chip cookies or store bought packaged ones, I would always go to the homemade ones first. I am not knocking the manufactured ones; heaven knows I have never turned down any type of chocolate chip cookie, but there are just times where I want the real thing. I could say the same thing about this action crime thriller.     MEETING at an abandoned warehouse a group of people came together to make a deal to buy and sell guns. It would have helped if some of them had prior training on how to shoot a gun. This film festival winner was executive produced by Martin Scorsese (Shutter Island, The Departed). Starring Brie Larson (Room, The Spectacular Now) as Justine, Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger, The Social Network) as Ord, Cillian Murphy (Inception, In the Heart of the Sea) as Chris and Sharito Copley (District 9, Maleficent) as Vernon; I thought with this much talent the story would have been interesting to watch. The film had a 70s retro look which was fun. As the movie started it appeared there was going to be a sense of mystery to the story. Little did I realize the only mystery was why the movie studio allowed the script to remain in its present form. Essentially if it was not, it sure felt like over ½ of this film was one big shootout. Most of the dialog contained slang words; I was so bored I wanted all of the characters to kill each other and end the picture. If the writers were trying to do a parody on gun violence it was lost on me. And if they were hoping to create an homage to Martin Scorsese, the writers and director failed in my opinion. This was a pseudo action thriller filled with violence and strong language. You have been warned.

 

1 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Unforgettable

ONLY in rare circumstances would someone want to meet their replacement. One area where I could see it happening would be in the workplace, if the person being replaced initiated the change. If however the person was not planning to make a change, I could see where it would be an uncomfortable situation. A friend of mine worked at a large food company where her department suddenly saw several new employees assigned to each person in the department for training. Once my friend finished the training of her new employee, she was laid off and the new person was sent back overseas to continue my friend’s work at a cheaper labor rate. Another situation where seeing one’s replacement would be uneventful would be with a couple who had an amicable divorce. In other words, there was no cheating involved or the breaking of trust. If the spouse being replaced believes their former partner has issues, I think it would be safe to say they would feel sorry for the new partner coming into the relationship.     OUT of my past relationships I have had the good and bad fortune of meeting the replacements sometimes. One long term relationship of mine ended sadly; well at least I was sad. Five days later I was at a shopping mall and unbelievably ran right into my ex with a man who obviously was my replacement. I could not believe after all the time we spent together it only took 5 days to swap me out for someone else. It would be appreciated if you don’t ask me if it was a trade-up; based on that one chance meeting all I can say is I do not think so. Now I know there are some people who handle a status change in their relationship easier than others; I am not one of those individuals. I need time to let things settle and to re-establish new routines before I can move on. This may not work for everyone as you can see in this dramatic thriller.     SEEING Julia Banks, played by Rosario Dawson (Seven Pounds, Death Proof), move into the house she used to share with her former husband David Connover, played by Geoff Stults (She’s Out of My League, J. Edgar), was more than she could handle. Tessa, played by Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up, Life as We Know it), had no desire to be the perfect ex-wife. The story to this movie has been done many times before. That alone would not have been an issue for me; however, I thought the script was silly and offered nothing new to this genre. I thought Rosario and Katherine did a good job with their characters, especially with all the physical stunts they had to do. The surprise for me was not recognizing Cheryl Ladd (Poison Ivy, Millennium) as Tessa’s mother, though she too was fine in her role. Let me say because of the horror stories I have heard being done through the internet, there was a certain creep factor to this story. I think if the writers would have expanded out that aspect of it, the movie might have been more engaging. Honestly the only reason one would spend money on watching this film is if they wanted to see two women acting like they were ultimate fighters; I was sad I did not buy a ticket to a different picture.

 

1 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Wilson

UNFILTERED, loudmouth, bad, rude and outrageous are some of the words that have described a person who speaks their mind. Personally, I have been associated with a couple of these descriptions. Honestly I cannot remember when I started speaking my mind; I want to say it started after high school. Seeing people being “two faced” where they would be friendly and kind to someone, then behind their back they would say nasty stuff about the person upset me. Obviously it made me wonder what was being said behind my back. The other thing that used to bother me was seeing people afraid to state their feelings. I firmly believe no one has the right to tell another person how they should feel; each one of us should be able to talk freely about our feelings without any feedback unless we asked for it. What will turn me off quicker than a light switch is when someone tells me how I “should” feel. Really?? If I sit here and think about it I want to say this “how I should feel” phrase may have contributed to me expressing my thoughts and feelings without holding anything back.     NOW with everything I just said there is one other element I want to introduce into this conversation and that is sensitivity. Looking back I now realize my honesty at times may have been too intense for some people. Though I was being truthful, the individual may have not been ready to hear what I was telling them. Just because you tell someone they are in a co-dependent relationship for example does not mean they will accept the news if they are not ready. It took me a long time to soften what I was saying so the words would not be heard so harshly. I attribute this to maturity. If someone asks me what I think about a situation I will tell them, but be sensitive to their feelings. This is something the main character could have used in this dramatic comedy.     WILSON, played by Woody Harrelson (Now You See Me franchise, No Country for Old Men), said exactly what was on his mind. Maybe that is why he lived alone. Based on the graphic novel this film also starred Judy Greer (Jurassic World, Ant-Man) as Shelly, Laura Dern (The Founder, Certain Women) as Pippi, Shaun Brown (Female Fight Club, The Great Indoors-TV) as Laptop Man and Isabella Amara (The Boss, Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life) as Claire. The only actors that stood out for me were Woody and Laura; they gave this script a good shot, but I found the story uneven. It did not take long for me to lose interest as the scenes seemed to repeat themselves as Woody’s mouth continued to get reactions from a rotating cast of characters. I think there could have been places of opportunity where the writers could have given the characters more emotions to act out. By the time something of substance took place I did not care anymore. Listening to this annoying character Wilson throughout the film annoyed me after awhile. In the real world I would not allow myself to be around such a person. I have to be brutally honest here; do not waste your money on seeing this movie.

 

1 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Belko Experiment

THERE was a stir in the air but the windows were closed. He could sense the shift as if the air around him had suddenly become electrified, where the fine hair on the arms stands up at attention. Afraid to turn around he remained looking forward at a downward glance. This was not an unfamiliar feeling to him; he only hoped he wasn’t going to be today’s victim. In a matter of a few seconds he knew he was somewhat safe. There was that one cry out for help before the victim was pounced on by the bullies in the room. It started out with taunting remarks about the victim’s appearance, quickly expanding in scope to include unfamiliar family members and lack of physical prowess. Other boys standing around had a choice, but not really. They could voice their opposition to the attack, but none of them would do it for fear the focus of the attack would redirect towards them. All they could do was pretend to be part of the bullies pack and hope they could leave the area unscathed. It pretty much is a no win situation for the target; they could either pass out, hoping that would stop the attackers or pray for a faculty member to walk into the room.     THIS scenario is something I have experienced both in school and out on the streets. I am always stunned how the majority of people witnessing such an attack pretend nothing is wrong or just as bad, bystanders join in for their own amusement. I remember one time while riding public transportation a guy started a fight with another passenger. Those that were sitting nearby got out of their seats and went to the opposite side of the train car to look for another seat. The riders that were sitting further away never looked up; continuing their gaze downward, out the windows or just closed their eyes as if they were pretending to be asleep. Considering there were only two people fighting in the full train car, why couldn’t everyone work together in disabling the 2 fighters? I am reminded of that quote, “The strong will inherit the earth.” This quote is just as applicable for this action, horror thriller.     SEVENTY employees working at their company’s Bogota location found themselves locked inside their office building one day. They thought it was a mistake until a voice came over the building’s loudspeaker system. Starring John Gallagher Jr. (Short Term 12, 10 Cloverfield Lane) as Mike “Michael” Milch, Tony Goldwyn (Ghost, The Mechanic) as Barry Norris, Adria Arjona (Person of Interest-TV, Emerald City-TV) as Leandra and John C. McGinley (Platoon, The Rock) as Wendell Dukes; this movie essentially was a blood fest. There were multiple, violent scenes filled with blood. Surprisingly I did not mind the story’s concept; maybe because of what I experienced and witnessed in the past. It was that kernel of understanding that kept me somewhat involved with this picture. Those of you who know my tastes know I am not a fan of excessive violence; after awhile I found the story going on automatic with repetitive scenes. It was not until almost the end where the turn in events engaged me once again. I am afraid this picture will die quickly against the recent blockbuster films out there.

 

1 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Last Word

CONTROL was something that had been a part of me for so long that not being in control was becoming a distant memory. Using myself and several people I know who also prefer being in control, I believe certain events in one’s life steers them to becoming a “control freak” or as I prefer to say “control aficionado.” For some experiencing disappointment multiple times can trigger them to stop counting on others. For example at work if you have an employee on your team that isn’t working up to the level needed to succeed in a specific task you are involved in, you might decide to take on some of the co-worker’s responsibilities to finish your project to your satisfaction. Another thing I have noticed for some people is their lack of spontaneity increases their desire for control. I know I can relate to this one because my brain is wired to the logic, “for every action there is a reaction.” My days are usually planned out due to my multiple jobs and responsibilities. To do something out of the norm would throw off the rest of the day for me.    NOW with everything I just said I recently discovered or better yet I should say rediscovered the feeling of not being in control. I have to tell you when I first realized I was relinquishing control it was unsettling for me. So you have a reference point, let me tell you that the level of my control used to be where I would not participate in a group decision on where to go out for dinner. If I did not like someone’s choice on where to eat I would not order any food. Reading what I just wrote doesn’t make me sound like a fun person does it? I hope I do not grow old and get a similar reputation like the main character in this dramatic comedy.     SUCCESSFUL businesswoman Harriet Lauler, played by Shirley MacLaine (Bernie, Elsa & Fred), had such control over her life that she even needed to know what her obituary would say about her before she was gone. That tough task would fall onto newspaper employee Anne Sherman, played by Amanda Seyfried (Dear John, Mamma Mia!). Casting Shirley in the main role was a big asset for this story. Both her and Amanda worked well together I thought. Also starring newcomer AnnJewel Lee Dixon as Brenda and Thomas Sadoski (John Wick franchise, Wild) as Robin Sands, I did not mind the rest of the cast; however, even if they were all renowned thespians it would not have helped the contrived script. The scenes did not come across as totally believable and it was long into the movie before I even felt a connection to Shirley’s character. For the most part none of the scenes went beyond standard fare; what I mean is Shirley’s character could have been more extreme, the scenes if they were believable could have been pushed for more emotion. As a result I was left with a “blah” feeling by the end of the film. In fact my strongest feelings came from the idea that I could wind up like Harriet if I don’t start giving up some control in my life.

 

1 3/4 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Table 19

THOUGH I try to avoid using the word “should,” in this case I think it is appropriate. One should not get offended by which table they are assigned to at a celebratory function, such as a wedding or bar mitzvah. Whether you believe it or not there is a ranking system, just like there is one for the seating arrangement at the Oscar awards. I am not including company functions here since most of the ones I have attended did not have assigned tables. It makes sense to me to place those people that may have a task to perform closer to the staging area of a room. For example the siblings of the bride and groom would be seated near the newlyweds so they would have easy access to give their speeches. Grandparents are always placed close by out of respect or maybe just to keep an eye on them for whatever reason. Those in the wedding party also would be seated somewhere near the newlyweds since those individuals I would assume are part of the couples’ inner circle of close friends and relatives. I see it as a ranking system in general, plus I can see the logic in it.     THERE is a running joke in my family about the table that is closest to the kitchen. I freely admit, at least within my family structure, those seated at that particular table tend to be individuals who do not fit in at the other tables. No one in that group is going to perform any function like a toast or speech; there may be a pair of single people placed there, especially if the bride and/or groom is trying to fix up a relative or friend; and it is not uncommon to place a person there who shares only a past history with the celebrating families, having been invited out of respect. As long as the food is good it really doesn’t matter where I sit, though the guests at the last table in this dramatic comedy would have been a bit of a challenge for me.     GOING from being the maid of honor to simply a guest when the best man dumped her Eloise, played by Anna Kendrick (The Accountant, The Hollars) found herself seated at the dreaded last table at the wedding. She was not the only one at the table. The idea for this story was something I could easily relate to and felt almost anyone else would find something in common with it. With Lisa Kudrow (Easy A, Friends-TV) as Bina Kepp, Craig Robinson (This is the End, Pineapple Express) as Jerry Kepp and June Squibb (Nebraska, Scent of a Woman) as Jo Flanagan; I liked the variety of the cast and each of their back stories. As for the script it provided plenty of chances for most viewers to connect to something familiar in their own lives. The issue I had was the script was too basic; it was too easy to see the jokes coming, the acting was partially uneven due to the dialog and none of the scenes were pushed to a farther place to add some intensity to the story. I felt as if everything was on one emotional level which led to boredom. The script really needed to be punched up to make this picture stand out from other movies that had similar story lines. If you get an invitation to this film you might want to send back your regrets.

 

1 ¾ stars    

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Fist Fight

SCANDALOUS is what it was when students discovered the English teacher was dating the PE teacher. The news spread through the student body faster than a 4th of July firecracker going off. There were 2 big reasons why this relationship was perceived as scandalous. The first one was the idea of teachers dating. Keep in mind for a young elementary student a teacher, at least back during my time, was an authority figure. When they told us something, we followed their instructions without any back talk. Teachers had a high place in the parental hierarchy; none of the students ever looked at their teachers as regular human beings. As I write this I know it must sound weird but I remember my teachers being kind, crazy, tough, cold and gentle; they ruled the room not with an iron fist but with a purpose. The idea that a teacher would have a social life was odd. None of us ever saw our teachers out and about in the neighborhood; in fact, the only time we would not see them in school was on a field trip. So the shocked students not only had to process a teacher was dating but two teachers and they were dating each other—unimaginable.     THE other big reason this news about our 2 teachers was eye popping was the fact they were not of the same race. It was a different time back then simply because there were not many examples of mixed race relationships. If a child has not been exposed to different possibilities, then seeing one of the options in the flesh can be startling to say the least. I can still remember hearing some students questioning what color the children would be if the two teachers ever got married. You can imagine how this dating news changed many students’ perceptions about teachers. I do not know if it would be correct to say this but all of a sudden teachers were no longer considered infallible; not that they were doing anything wrong, just living their lives. If you think anything I have said was shocking then you might not be prepared for what happens between teachers in this comedy.     AFTER being fired from his teaching position because fellow teacher Andy Campbell, played by Charlie Day (Pacific Rim, Horrible Bosses franchise), snitched on him to the school’s principle; Strickland, played by Ice Cube (Ride Along franchise, 21 Jump Street franchise) challenged Andy to a knockout fist fight in the playground after school. The students were already taking bets. This film was painful to watch because I have a hard time watching bullies picking on people. I did not mind Charlie’s performance though after a while the delivery of his lines became annoying. His character had some truth in him that I wished the writers would have explored; but the goal of this script was to get some cheap, easy laughs. On one level one could say the script was creating a commentary on our public school system, however the thought was not expanded. I know the current school experience is totally different to when I was in school, but a good portion of this movie’s actions were farfetched. The best part for me was the blooper reel at the beginning of the credits.

 

1 ¾ stars      

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Great Wall

WALKING among the ancient relics in the midst of reproductions was exciting. The museum had opened an exhibit devoted to the achievements of ancient man. As I started to walk around the displays I came up to glass cases that had several items in each one. According to the printed cards next to each item these objects were all tools that must have been used eons ago. To tell you the truth except for the obvious hammer and chisel devices I would not know these things were tools. I wondered how the archeologists and scientists figured it out. Among the cases there were blueprints displayed on large easels that stood alongside each case. The plans were modern but they depicted the schematics to ancient structures that historians believed would have been built using some of these same tools that were in the cases. I may be a pessimist but how did they really know? At least I could see the blueprints and corresponding tools would make a good story for the visitors.     IN another part of the exhibit there were computer monitors set up to provide visual mini tours of some famous structures. I gravitated towards these monitors and stopped at the first one which was focused on a famous temple in Cambodia. I knew about the temple only because a friend of mine had traveled to it and shared his photographs with me. Listening to the film’s narrator I heard a variety of statements being made about the uses or purposes to several portions of the temple’s structure. How could one really know that a platform jutting out from a side entryway was used for sacrifices I wondered? Maybe it was used as a balcony or it was a portion of a bridge that had fallen apart; who could really say with certainty what something was from so long ago? Call me a skeptic but I tend to need more proof before I will accept someone’s version of an ancient item’s purpose. Maybe this is why I had a hard time believing this action adventure film.     MERCENARIES William and Tovar, played by Matt Damon (The Martian, Promised Land) and Pedro Pascal (The Adjustment Bureau, Game of Thrones-TV), were traveling through China in search of a black powder that was rumored to be a powerful weapon. Their search would lead them to something scarier than the powder. Directed by Yimou Zhang (House of Flying Daggers, Hero), this was the largest production to be filmed entirely in China. I will say this expansive fantasy picture had some wonderful visual scenes. Women warriors swinging off of the Great Wall of China looked like a cross between a ballet company and Cirque du Soleil; it was beautiful to watch. Also starring Tian Jing (Special ID, The Warring States) as Commander Lin Mae and William Dafoe (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Platoon) as Ballard, I found the story to be silly and the script to be even sillier. The idea of fending off “alien” creatures was an odd concept, but if that is the idea I would have reluctantly been okay with it if the script was written better. I was periodically bored and the CGI effects did not help the situation. Except for a couple of well choreographed fight scenes I actually enjoyed the craziness of the Great Wall’s defenses. Who knows, maybe there is actual proof somewhere that the wall used to do these things.

 

1 ¾ stars       

 

 

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