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Flash Movie Review: Florence Foster Jenkins

It can be such a dilemma; the choice is whether to be supportive or honest. Now I grant you these two options can be compatible; but I have found myself in situations where I had to stop and think before I reacted to the circumstances present. So here is the question I have for you; how do you tell someone you care about that their dream will never happen? For what I hope is obvious reasons I have changed a few things here; let us say you have a close friend who wants to be a chef. They enjoy having dinner parties so they can try out new dishes on their friends. The food is fine but nothing you would pay for at a restaurant. Politeness dictates you tell your friend the food tastes good. Should you mention you would not necessarily pay for it but for homemade it was okay? Remember this friend’s dream is to be a chef either at an established venue or opening up their own place. Personally it is a tough call for me and I am the blunt one in my circle of friends. I would never quash a person’s dream; dreams are what make human beings grow and learn. On the other hand watching your friend spend money and time on something that probably will not yield them the desired results would be sad. Do you see my predicament? A similar situation was taking place in this biographical comedic drama.   NEW YORK heiress Florence Foster Jenkins, played by Meryl Streep (Ricki and the Flash, Hope Springs), dreamed of becoming an opera singer. She had the means, the desire and the drive to fulfill this dream. The question was did she have the talent? Based on a true story this film’s cast formed a wonderful bond that came across the big screen. With Hugh Grant (About a Boy, Did You Hear About the Morgans?) as St. Clair Bayfield, Simon Helberg (Van Wilder: Party Liaison, The Big Bang Theory-TV) as Cosme McMoon and Rebecca Ferguson (Hercules, A One-Way Trip to Antibes) as Kathleen; the actors did their best with what was given to them. The story was better than the script. I thought the sets and costumes were spot on; but the script produced what I thought was a light version to what the story could have been. The acting was very good but I found the characters somewhat bland, though Simon’s character was curious. Without giving a spoiler alert let me just say I read somewhere that it was Meryl’s idea to not let the actors and extras hear her in some scenes until the first take. I have to say it worked because I thought the scenes looked authentic. So you see there were positives to this film; I just felt it lagged emotionally, not making a true connection with the viewer. Maybe there were people behind this project who dreamed of bringing this true story to the big screen. Who am I to tell them they should not have done it this way? Instead let me say my fascination with this story lingered on after the movie was over. The bottom line is everyone has the right to dream.

 

2 2/3 stars

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: Central Intelligence

From acts of kindness heroes are born. Some heroes may reach mythical proportions in the minds of the recipients. For me it was that classmate in kindergarten who taught me, the only left-handed student in class, how to properly cut paper with a pair of scissors. For the rest of my elementary school years that student could do no wrong in my eyes. In turn, it was not until years after high school I discovered a kindness I showed a fellow student had an effect on them. I know from personal experience when the act of kindness fights its way through the terror of the moment it can be monumental. It was during a P.E. class and the boys were changing in the locker room. There was this one boy who was a target for a group of bullies. I do not know if it was because he was short, quiet or did poorly in sports; but he got picked on a lot. One day one of the bullies decided to wait for the exact moment when this student was undressed before pouncing on him. The bully and his sidekicks came up from behind, pinning the boy’s arms back as they started dragging him away from his clothes hanging in the locker. One of the sidekicks ran ahead and opened a window as wide as it would go. The three hoisted the boy who was screaming and kicking up onto the window sill then pushed him out, only holding him by the arms. Hanging out the window without any clothes on, the frantic boy did not know some students had run to get the coach to come down into the locker room. Those students were not thinking about becoming heroes.   YEARS after high school Calvin Joyner, played by Kevin Hart (The Wedding Ringer, Get Hard), received a Facebook friend request. It came from someone who had fond memories of Calvin when he was a student in high school. Calvin on the other hand had only one memory about this individual. This comedic crime film threw me for a loop due to one of its scenes; you will understand what I mean after seeing the film. I had to quickly regroup myself to focus on the movie. As some of you know I am sensitive whenever a bully is part of the story. The casting of Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas, Pain & Gain) as Bob Stone in this picture was a perfect choice. Besides his affable nature I have to tell you I was impressed with his comedic skills. Kevin was yet again the same type of character he has played in his past movies; but here I felt Dwayne outshined him. Rounding out the main cast was Danielle Nicolet (All-Stars, Third Rock from the Sun-TV) as Maggie and Amy Ryan (Escape Plan, Gone Baby Gone) as Pamela Harris. There were times where I laughed out loud; I enjoyed the make-up of the story more than its execution. I thought the script was simple and tailored for Kevin and Dwayne to the point that the writers expected the two actors would create the funny moments. The easy to follow story did not keep me interested; it was Bob Stone’s transformation from high school to adult life. Heroes certainly come in all sizes.

 

2 2/3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Mermaid

The group of friends had a set monthly date to get together for dinner. They had originally first met when they were team players in a sports league. At the end of the meal when it was time to figure out the check they all agreed to split the bill; it was easier, making more sense instead of trying to figure out who ordered what and how much they needed to pay. There was one friend who usually had 2 alcoholic drinks with his meal, which also tended to be more expensive than everyone else’s food. Another friend from the group never had enough cash on hand; they always collected everyone’s money so they could then pay the entire bill on their charge card. No one minded nor knew their charge card rebated a percentage of the total monthly charges back to the cardholder. As an outside observer I would have gotten annoyed after awhile if a friend kept ordering the most expensive meals with drinks without ever offering to throw in a few more bucks to make up the difference. I at least know I have options: ask for separate checks, break the check down to each person’s share or just not order anything. Things like this can be irritating. They are not a life or death situation and I can have an effect on the situation. Compare it to the greed I see in the news, it is on a whole different scale. From a drug executive raising the price of a drug 5000% to a political figure disregarding public safety for monetary gain to a business financier setting up a Ponzi scheme to swindle workers’ retirement funds; I find the level of greed in people astounding. This comedic, dramatic fantasy had one solution for a greedy corporation.   BUSINESS tycoon Liu Xuan, played by Chao Deng (American Dreams in China, Assembly), knew his reclamation sea project was killing the sea life, but he did not care. The project was worth billions. This film directed by Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle) recently became the largest grossing film in Chinese history. With newcomer Yun Lin as Shan and Show Luo (Journey to the West, Hi My Sweetheart-TV) as Octopus, I have to tell you this “extravaganza” was trippy. Part Bollywood, part slapstick, part romance, part social commentary; this picture pretty much had everything in it. From a technical standpoint the special effects were cheesy, the acting was over the top and the script had some lame passages; but I have to tell you, this picture had a way of drawing the viewer in. I felt the message was an important one so I could appreciate all the effort it must have taken to create this movie. Bear in mind there were a few actual film clips of animals used that were hard to watch due to the content. All in all, this movie kept my interest while entertaining me. I am sure the film studio made a profit on this and I do not know, maybe they made a donation to a charity with some of the proceeds. Ultimately it is the studio’s job to make films and I commend them on tackling an important subject in a creative way. Mandarin was spoken with English subtitles.

 

2 2/3 stars     

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

Do you think food tastes any better coming out of a refrigerator costing $2000.00 as opposed to one costing $500.00? Unless the owner of the expensive refrigerator is a gourmet cook and the other owner cannot even boil water, I do not think so. I never understood this mentality about the more something cost the better it should be. Do you remember a television show that filmed the inside of celebrity houses? Now I can appreciate the “finer things in life” such as artwork or custom made furniture, but some places were just outrageous. Usually those places matched the owners who managed to always be in the news, even if it meant they had to be involved in some ridiculous incident. I do not know about you but I have noticed it is always the same celebrities getting in the news and usually not for a philanthropic or generous act. Personally I find it offensive but I understand their need for publicity, both good and bad. There used to be a time where celebrities maintained some form of discretion. When I think of the old Hollywood actors I do not recall most of them being associated with a scandal. Granted the internet and reality TV has altered the playing field; but seriously, how many of us really care to hear the stuff that is out there these days? From shaved heads to addictions to cheating to posing without clothes; it seems like some celebrities’ stunts become the thing they are known for as they get more popular and overshadow their original body of work.   SKYROCKETING in popularity Conner, played by Andy Samberg (That’s my Boy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine-TV), decided to leave his boy band and go solo. He would soon discover popularity has a ferocious appetite. This musical comedy mockumentary also starred Sarah Silverman (I Smile Back, Take This Waltz) as Paula and Tim Meadows (Mean Girls, The Ladies Man) as Harry. The story started out slow for me, where I felt the script was just an expanded version of a Saturday Night Live skit. It was logical since Andy and the writers here were responsible for his digital short films on the show. However, as the story continued it occurred to me the writing trio were creating a satirical social commentary about celebrity fame. There were several biting cuts and loony ideas expressed in this film. I enjoyed the multitude of celebrity cameo appearances that went on throughout the entire movie; I think Andy must know almost everyone in Hollywood. The key to watching this picture is not to take it too seriously. I continued to find parts of the script that did not work for me; but, considering what I have seen and heard these days, the things that did work were sharp. Even the musical numbers were trippy though there was strong language used at times. In a way this movie told a familiar story except it was updated for current times. I recall seeing Andy doing the talk show circuit to promote this film. It may not have been enough to make this film popular at the box office; I just hope he doesn’t start to do some goofy stunts to help gain notoriety for this movie.

 

2 2/3 stars    

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Love & Friendship

They never had any reason to know each other during their high school years. The closest encounter was when they attended the same class during sophomore year. When it was time for them to graduate, both were excited about going to college because each one was hoping to find someone they could marry. For her she had no real desire to study in the liberal arts; she wanted to be a wife. He on the other hand was looking forward to studying business but was concerned if he could find a suitable wife in his economics and accounting classes. During high school neither did much dating for a variety of reasons; but with college looming, the idea of attending a school with an increased population translated into better opportunities for meeting someone. I did not know either of these individuals personally; we shared common friends. When I heard about each one’s similar story about going to college I did think it was an odd goal, but then again one of my main goals was to attend a college where no one else from my high school was planning to attend. Something that amused me a bit was the fact that I was hearing a similar story from a girl’s and boy’s perspective. I knew from history classes and discussions women many years ago were treated more like property than equals to their husbands. Life was hard; without a means of earning income and becoming independent, I can certainly understand the motivation behind finding someone to marry under the circumstances. It is always a good idea to be aware of how far things have progressed; so if you are in the mood for a wickedly fun history lesson then I suggest you watch this romantic, comedic drama.   BASED on a Jane Austen (Sense and Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice) story this film starred Kate Beckinsale (The Aviator, Underworld franchise) as Lady Susan Vernon, Chloe Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry, Zodiac) as Alicia Johnson and Morfydd Clark (The Falling, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Frederica Vernon. Set in the 1790s I thought the acting, sets and costumes were all good. Kate especially did well with her memorable character. If you are a Jane Austen fan I feel you will immensely enjoy this movie. I had a hard time with the script. For me there were too many characters to keep track of; I found myself trying to figure out who was related to whom or what was the importance of such and such character. It was bothersome after a while. From my limited exposure to Jane Austen I found this story to be different from the others. There was an underhanded or stronger sense of manipulation from the main character that I don’t recall seeing in her other characters. There was a lot to enjoy about this movie; however, I may be in the minority but there were times where I had wished for the film to end. There is something to be said for seeing how things used to be and it is good to know when they are progressing in the right direction; I only wished this film was more entertaining for me.

 

2 2/3 stars                        3 ¼ stars for Jane Austen fans

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Dark Horse

To physically excel at something does not always mean money is required for success. I do not know when it was decided that someone of wealth is better than someone else. There was a fitness club I used to work at that had a wide range of members coming from different economic backgrounds. They would judge each other based on what town they lived in. You see, some suburbs had higher property taxes and wealthier residents than others next to them; so based on where a person resided was how they were classified into certain groups at the club. This had nothing to do with management or employees; this was a bizarre phenomenon that the members did amongst themselves. It took me a while before I could even pick out the towns members lived in based on their appearances. Trust me, I am not one to judge anyone based on their looks, but it was so strange to see how the people from wealthier places looked down at the members who were not as “rich.” Those who walked into the club with full makeup, designer workout clothes or excess jewelry were most likely from the higher economic status neighborhoods. As an instructor I could not care less about any of this and I have to tell you a secret: when I was teaching a format that included partnering up, I always chose people from different backgrounds to match up for the routine. To do yoga poses or strength training exercises did not take a large wallet; anyone could do it. Maybe this is one of the reasons why I always root for the underdog and enjoy hearing a good story about them, like the one in this true story.   PEOPLE in the horsing world scoffed at the idea that the working class residents of a small village could breed and train a racehorse for competition. It could be the reason why the horse was named Dream Alliance. This film festival winning documentary was such a good story to watch on film. I should first tell you I am fond of horses; I think they are beautiful creatures. Now with that being said, I enjoyed learning about the different residents who made up this group that dreamed of having a racehorse. The director Louise Osmond (Deep Water, The Blitz: London’s Longest Night-TV) did an admirable job in showing the camaraderie among the townsfolk who all had a single goal in mind. On the other hand I thought the amount of race footage being shown was excessive. With those film clips there were a couple of scenes that could upset viewers, especially animal lovers. Because of the story this movie could be considered more like a drama than a documentary. There were parts in it however that I felt were going slow. I would have preferred to have heard more about how the idea came about instead of seeing multiple group scenes at the pub or restaurant. Overall I am glad I saw this film; however, if one doesn’t want to spend the money then it would be perfectly fine to wait and see it on DVD or online.

 

2 2/3 stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Man Who Knew Infinity

She had seen the advertisement on a social networking site so she felt it must have been true. All she needed to do was pay for shipping charges and she would get a free trial container of wrinkle remover for her face. The lotion arrived on time but a week afterwards another container arrived, followed by yet a 3rd one the next week. Checking her charge card statement when it arrived, she saw she was charged $70.00 for each additional product. With emailing the only option to communicate with the company, she was told everything was correct about the special advertised deal and it was stated as such in the fine print in the advertisement. I only knew about this person’s plight because it was recently on the news after she contacted a television station’s consumer hotline. I can see where things like this can happen because I tried retrieving a coupon for a free meal once that was posted online; all that I got was a bunch of junk emails for weeks. From that experience I never trust any offers online unless I have signed up to a well-known company; I am now prejudiced towards that form of advertising. Due to this it occurs to me that there are other ways we are taught not to believe something we see or hear. I have not only seen but have been the victim of someone’s disbelief in my answer solely based on external factors; in other words my physical appearance. I guess the person could not trust my answer because I did not look like I knew what I was talking about. There was someone I knew who kept having the same thing happen to them all the time because they did not dress in a fashionable way or because their clothing looked too worn. You know what they say about judging a book by its cover, don’t you?   DESPITE what his colleagues at Cambridge thought mathematician G.H. Hardy, played by Jeremy Irons (Beautiful Creatures, Margin Call), felt there was something special about S. Ramanujan, played by Dev Patel (Chappie, Slumdog Millionaire). It did not matter to Professor Hardy that the poor young man was from India. Based on a true story this biographical drama was ripe for an incredible telling of it. With part of the cast including Tobey Jones (Captain America franchise, Infamous) as Littlewood and Malcolm Sinclair (Casino Royale, V for Vendetta) as Professor Cartwright, I thought the acting was extremely good especially from Dev and Jeremy. The story is so amazing I only wished the script would have followed suit by being more precise and intense. I felt there were some characters that needed more screen time to let their story develop properly. Maybe the script was a bit too formulaic and the director did not utilize the actors fully, but my interest in the story was kept for the majority of the time. This movie offered proof that there was good reason to look beyond the surface.

 

2 2/3 stars  

Flash Movie Review: Papa Hemingway in Cuba

Between the people slightly in front an arm was thrust towards me so I shook hands with it. I did not have time to see who was attached to the arm so I asked the person alongside me. It was a city politician who was walking the parade route. Funny this was now the 4th handshake I have had with a political figure. You can learn something from a person’s handshake; I still remember the feelings I experienced when I shook the previous hands. One politician’s handshake was more of a squeeze instead of a shake; he was tightly wound in my opinion. Another politician’s handshake was firm but respectful who deliberately made eye contact, exuding confidence. The most I have been able to say to them was something about being glad to meet them. I think my handshake conveys my feelings; it is direct and firm most of the time. If I happen to get a negative feeling from a person I keep the handshake light and less firm so I can remove myself quickly. Besides politicians the only other celebrities I have met were a couple of directors who came to the screenings of their movies. I have seen actors at different locations but I am not the type to go run up to them and carry on about meeting them out in public. However what I really would enjoy is being able to sit down with them for coffee or dinner and just have a conversation that goes beyond the surface. This would apply to anyone from any facet of life who I admired. I can only imagine how it must have felt for the journalist in this biographical drama.   WHEN the phone rang at his office Ed Myers, played by Giovanni Ribisi (The Rum Diary, Ted franchise), could not believe who was calling him. The gentleman on the line said he was Ernest Hemingway. Based on a true story I had never heard of this event. The first thing I have to tell you is I thoroughly enjoyed watching the outdoor scenes in this film festival winner because they were shot in Cuba; talk about timing as the United States has moved away from its previous policy towards the country. Starring Adrian Sparks (The Manhattan Project, The Purge: Anarchy) as Ernest Hemingway and Joely Richardson (Event Horizon, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Mary Hemingway; I thought the acting was good, especially from Joely and Giovanni. Set during the late 1950s in Havana, Cuba the idea to film this story sounded like it would be a dramatic win-win situation. Now I did like this movie but I felt it did not do real justice to the characters; the script kept things too simple so some scenes came across manipulative and over-dramatic. The actual experience was more important than what was told in this picture; but I have to tell you, I would be just as excited as Ed Myers if I were to meet the person who I felt changed my life.

 

2 2/3 stars

 

Flash Movie Review: Goosebumps

When I see they have a book in their hand or I know they like to read books, I feel those people will understand me quicker. I hope that does not sound judgmental, but it just seems I do not have to explain myself as much to a book reader. Maybe I think like this because I know what type of affect books have on me. They take me on a trip to another place without ever leaving my seat. The words paint a picture inside of my mind that let me experience things outside of my daily life; in turn, these pictures are projected on the back of my retinas transporting me into the shadows of the characters and places. Another benefit of reading is the way stories’ conversations open up my mind. It is like my brain is always under construction as new roads are constantly being paved to lead me to undiscovered lands of thought. I have mentioned in the past how I like seeing the movie first before reading the book; it provides me the voices I need to keep the characters separate in my head. In a way I believe books have given me the tools to be a better storyteller. Where movies allow me an instant escape through a portal to a different place, books have a way of becoming our friends. Now when the two come together, well check it out for yourself in this adventure comedy.    Unhappy moving from a big city to a small town, the one plus to it for Zach, played by Dylan Minnette (Prisoners, Let Me In), was having a cool neighbor named Hannah, played by Odeya Rush (The Giver, The Odd Life of Timothy Green), living next door to him. Unfortunately her father did not feel the same way towards Zach. This comedic horror film was based on the wildly popular Goosebump series, though I do not know how much the story in this film had in common with R.L Stine’s books. Surprisingly I liked Jack Black (King Kong, Bernie) in the role of R. L. Stine since I have not been a big fan of his in the past. The rest of the cast which also included Ryan Lee (Super 8, This is 40) as Champ was quite good. There was a lot of physical activity throughout the film, maybe a bit too much; though I thought the special effects were fun. For young kids this hectic pace will keep them entertained; I just wanted a few places where there could have been some down time before ramping up the pace again. Though I have not read the books, the story was easy to follow and I could see why these books were best sellers. After seeing this fantasy film I would like to read a couple of R.L. Stine’s books to compliment what I had just seen on the big screen.

 

2 2/3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Digging for Fire

Those needs, wants and expectations sure can trip you up in the middle of your relationship. A want is like a desire; such as I want a caramel apple dipped in chocolate. I do not need it but I certainly would not refuse one if it happened to cross my path. A need is defined as a condition requiring supply or relief; for example, telling a person to stop yelling at you would qualify as a need. Now about expectations, this one can really play havoc in your relationship. The dictionary defines expectation as a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen; you could even say a hope. But I have to tell you if you get into a relationship where you have silent expectations, it will knock you for a loop. I know a couple where the wife is a fast decision maker and the husband is opposite; he has to mull things over and over. Where the wife is ready to replace their refrigerator at the first sign of trouble, her husband has to wait and think it over; wondering if he could fix it or find someone who can, the cost, the time looking for a fridge if they have to and his list goes on and on. This could turn into a frustrating moment for both of them. Now I know in the scheme of things this type of disagreement is more of a trivial matter; however, there are times where two people can veer off of their shared path due to mixed expectations or needs. If you do not believe me just watch what happens in this drama.    WHILE vacationing Tim and Lee, played by Jake Johnson (Let’s Be Cops, New Girl-TV) and Rosemarie DeWitt (Your Sister’s Sister Cinderella Man), discover an old bone and gun on the property. Reacting differently to this find caused the two of them to experience a different vacation from the other during their trip away. What drew me into this story was the dialog; I found it to be honest and real. With a large cast that included Brie Larson (Short Term 12, Don Jon) as Max and Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Kingdom of Heaven) as Ben, I found every character had something to offer to the story. Now about the story, I enjoyed how it let the viewer be a witness to the different implications and events, letting us imagine the possibilities that could happen. The cast really worked well together, coming across as believable and I mean this as a compliment, typical. There were a few parts in the story where I had to question the validity of the action taking place. I was not sure if I was reacting that way because I could not relate to it, not having experienced it in my life. On the plus side I enjoyed the way this film made me think about it even after it was done.

 

2 2/3 stars

 

 

 

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