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Flash Movie Review: Going in Style

NO matter how hard one works it seems as if that finish line keeps moving further away. I am referring to those plans put in place for retirement. Besides the big element of the “unknown,” the unexpected expense, it seems as if the rules and the times keep changing faster to any adjustments one tries to execute. The age of 65 used to be the goal line for retirement; now it gets pushed back depending on the year one is born. There is a grocery store I occasionally use that has a couple of small sections put aside for clearance items. One of them is in the produce section of the store and I have to tell you it is hard sometimes to watch the elderly shoppers pouring over the bruised or wrinkled fruits and vegetables, looking for one that would still be edible. I wonder what my retirement will be like when I am on a fixed income; would I be one of those shoppers looking for a bargain that potentially could make me ill?     AS my friends and I grow older our conversations about are retirement years has increased. Some amongst us have multiple insurance policies to cover a variety of scenarios; others have focused on savings that they will be able to draw on once they are no longer working. One of the big concerns we all share is whether we will be able to still live independently, under our own roofs. No one in my circle of friends has had something good to say about nursing homes unless they had a super wealthy relative, who could afford one of those luxury retirement communities set up like a condominium building. They would have to buy the apartment outright and when they died the living space would revert back to the association. Since none of my friends or me could afford such an arrangement, we have come up with some creative ways on how we could take care of each other. I will tell you the option that was chosen in this comedic crime film never occurred to any of us.     RETIRED friends Joe, Willie and Albert; played by Michael Caine (Inception, Batman Begins franchise), Morgan Freeman (Driving Miss Daisy, The Dark Knight franchise) and Alan Arkin (Get Smart, Argo); were falling deeper into debt. After witnessing a crime, Joe got an idea that would solve all three friends’ money issues. Directed by Zach Braff (Garden State, Scrubs-TV), the only reason to see this film is to watch these three actors, along with Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future franchise, Taxi-TV) as Milton and Ann-Margaret (Grumpy Old Men, Any Given Sunday) as Annie, working together. It would have been more interesting to watch them if the script had not stayed on the light side; the humor and emotional parts were rather wishy-washy. Putting aside my dilemma with celebrating crime situations, I thought the lead up story was a good motivator for the action. When the film came to an end I was left with the same feelings I had with yesterday’s picture, just a sense of “blah.” In my opinion it was a crime to have used these actors for such an uninspired script.

 

2 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Smurfs: The Lost Village

AT some point in time I am sure many of us have felt alone, as if we were the only one. I feel it is a valid point; however, my question is what does a person do about it? That feeling of being out of synch from those around you can really do a number on you mentally. Imagine if the co-workers around you all share a fondness for a particular activity which you are not interested in; you could be left out of their conversations or out of office activities. One scenario I have seen numerous times is when one’s circle of friends goes from being single to being a part of a couple. As friends begin to couple up it is understandable there is some adjustment and before you say, “no there is not,” let me say there are a variety of reasons couples may prefer doing things with other couples. I am willing to bet if you were in a relationship that later dissolved, you would have felt alone as your coupled friends came to your support.     A particularly difficult time for me took place during my freshmen year of college. I had gone to an out of state university that no one else from my high school was planning on attending. Alone in a foreign city was tough for me, especially because I was the only freshman on my floor; the other residents were all graduate students. It was not until one of my classes held a panel discussion with outside guests that I first felt a connection to some similarly minded students. It was as if a secret door had opened in the middle of the 30,000+ student body and I finally stopped feeling as if I was the odd man out. It was an eye opening experience, not so dissimilar from the one that takes place in this animated adventure comedy.     WITH a secret map in her possession Smurfette, voiced by Demi Lovato (Glee-TV, Sonny with a Chance-TV), takes off on a journey that will show her things that she has not found in her own village. Including Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride, Homeland-TV) voicing Papa Smurf, Julia Roberts (Mother’s Day, Closer) voicing SmurfWillow, Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike franchise, True Blood-TV) as Hefty Smurf and Rainn Wilson (Juno, The Office-TV) as Gargamel; this movie was geared more for the younger child. The animation was colorful and there were many scenes filled with action. Honestly, I felt like I was watching one of those old Saturday morning cartoon shows I remember as a kid. I appreciated the dual messages the writers were trying to get across to the viewers; however, I found the story in general mediocre. There was nothing either good or poor about this picture; it was predictable and a little bland for me. Granted I was never into the Smurfs while growing up, but I thought the writing could have been more creative to add heft to the fun and excitement factors. As a whole I was left with a bland feeling about this movie; I could have (if I was into the Smurfs) easily have waited to see this some Saturday morning on television, while eating a bowl of breakfast cereal by myself.

 

2 stars        

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Power Rangers

LONLINESS can be your friend when you do not fit in. Depending on the circumstances not fitting in can be an asset; however, in a “dog eat dog” environment the non-conformer can become an easy target for ridicule. When I look back at my experiences involving group settings, the one thing I find in common across all of them is the quickness people have in making judgments. If one person deems another person an oddball, others will easily follow suit; even if they have not had any personal contact with the newly labeled individual. Personally I celebrate those individuals who do not follow this pack mentality. It saddens me when I have found myself in a situation where one person decides another person inferior in some way. When I can I will challenge them to explain why they think that way. You should hear some of the excuses; a majority of them have to do with a person’s looks or appearance. Other reasons have to do with the individual not following exactly the same steps as the accuser. As far as I can tell there really is no good excuse.     ONE summer I was enrolled in a woodworking class that was limited to 12 students. Once we were taught how to use our tools we were given a project to create a functional object. I chose to make a chessboard while the guy next to me decided to make a boomerang. Out of all of us there was one person who spent time lining up different pieces of wood around their workspace, color coordinating them. Everyone else was into cutting and arranging the wood they chose. Within a couple of minutes I heard someone behind me whispering to look at the weird one with all the wood around him. It only took a few seconds before I started to hear people snickering around me. Long story short, the student with all the wood pieces created an incredible looking coat rack that even impressed our instructor. It goes to show that those who do not fit in can still achieve great things; just see what happens in this action adventure film.     FIVE high school students on the outs with their classmates find themselves thrown together when they start experiencing weird effects from a glowing rock. Starring Dacre Montgomery (Safe Neighborhood, A Few Less Men) as Jason/Red Ranger, Naomi Scott (The 33, Terra Nova-TV) as Kimberly/Pink Ranger, RJ Cyler (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Vice Principals-TV) as Billy/Blue Ranger, Ludi Lin (Monster Hunt, Marco Polo-TV) as Zack/Black Ranger and Becky G. (Empire-TV, House of Sin) as Trini/Yellow Ranger; I first have to tell you I am not familiar with the television show that inspired this fantasy picture. Based on the audience reaction at my viewing; those who were fans of the Power Rangers enjoyed the movie immensely, those seeing the rangers for the first time were not as enthusiastic. I found the movie cheesy; in other words, the special effects were not top notch and the script was average. Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games franchise, Pitch Perfect franchise) as Rita Repulsa was the most fun character in my opinion. What impressed me the most about this movie was how they incorporated a student on the spectrum into the story; unless of course the character was the same in the original TV show. Overall this movie did not stand out for me.

 

2 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Gold

LUCK is such a fickle experience. It seems as if some people get all the luck while others never get a break. I have a friend who is the luckiest person I know when it comes to finding a parking space on city streets. Areas that are congested with cars and people at all hours of the day and all he needs to do is drive into it and BOOM, a space magically appears just for him at the right time. It could be him turning down a short side street to find an untouched open space or simply cruising down a boulevard and someone pulls out of their parking space several feet ahead of him. All I can say is his luck with parking is uncanny. There is another friend of mine who has the best luck when it comes to entering contests and raffles. More times than not this person will wind up winning something for their money; to me this is pure luck.   THERE are times where luck is not solely left to chance; it is more determination. If you have ever visited a casino take a look at the people who play the slot machines. They could sit there for hours and lose money time after time, but as soon as they get a hit on a machine the people around them will immediately think that person is lucky. I ask you though, was it real luck or them staying at the same machine until they got a winner? Of course I have seen where a person walks up to a slot machine and on the 1st pull they become a winner. If they take the winnings and leave they are a true winner in my books. You could say they were lucky or maybe it was left to chance. They happened to walk in at the right time when the previous person on the machine left in disgust for not getting a winner after one hour; if they had only stayed for one more play. If you watch this adventure thriller you will have to decide if luck was involved or not.   PROSPECTOR Kenny Well, played by Matthew McConaughey (Free State of Jones, The Wolf of Wall Street), had one true love in life and that was gold. The problem was his funds were dwindling but he knew inside he had to hit it big at some point. This film festival winning drama based on a true story also starred Edgar Ramirez (Point Break, Joy) as Michael Acosta and Bryce Dallas Howard (Pete’s Dragon, Jurassic World) as Kay. The story was fascinating and visually this picture was fun to watch with its great outdoor scenes. Matthew did a super job, even putting on 40 pounds for the role, but he was not strong enough to handle the confusing script. At times I felt I was watching a comedy, then a drama; add in the thrills and intrigue and I was left lost. Soon into the movie it seemed as if we were going from one stunt/crisis to another; there was never any time given to explore deeper into the characters. Should you take a chance on seeing this film and hope you enjoy it? I leave it up to you.

 

2 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Paterson

IT always comes as a surprise to me when people make the assumption that an individual’s job is the ultimate definition of that person. Just this past week a co-worker and I were talking about a couple of restaurants we both enjoy. When I mentioned something about putting ketchup on my entrée they reacted with surprise. I asked them why they were shocked and they said they did not take me for a “ketchup guy. “ It was such an odd statement to me since I did not have a clue what constitutes being a “ketchup guy.” Here I come to find out because this employee knows I teach fitness, they assumed I kept a strict diet of eating only healthy foods. Well anyone who knows me knows all food types are open game for me on the weekends; it is only during the weekdays that I keep to a restricted diet.   FROM this conversation I started to think about how I have experienced this type of thinking numerous times; not only towards me but in daily conversations I have been a part of. In a way you could say it is a form of stereotyping or typecasting. An example would be a librarian; from what I have witnessed a majority of people think of librarians as quiet, reserved individuals who keep to themselves. Or accountants, the perception people have about them is they are socially awkward and quiet. I find this simply odd; it is as if a person is not allowed to have other interests that may be opposite to the perceptions people hold about a profession. It is like me saying a truck driver cannot play the violin in a local orchestra; it makes no sense. If you care to see what I am talking about then feel free to watch this dramatic, comedic film festival winner.   EVERYDAY Paterson, played by Adam Driver (Silence, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), goes to work as a bus driver then stops off to see Doc, played by Barry Shabaka (The Terminal, Miami Vice), for one drink after work before going home to his wife Laura, played by Golshifteh Farahani (Body of Lies, Exodus: Gods and Kings). The routine stays the same except when he sits down to write poetry in his notebook. Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive, Broken Flowers), this movie was done in a quiet slow pace. Maybe because I saw it on a Sunday after a hectic weekend but there were times where I was bored with the story. I thought Adam was flat in his acting, though I realized that was part of his character; however, I found the action so subtle that I could not get fully drawn into this picture. My favorite characters were Laura and Marvin the dog; they seemed to have the most life and maybe that was exactly the point. I know this film has received high praise but I have to tell you from an entertainment standpoint I was not entertained. For me, this movie would have been better seen on DVD in the comfort of my own home. That way, audience members would not have had to see this group fitness/yoga instructor fighting to keep his eyes from not shutting down into a nap.

 

2 stars          

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Frank & Lola

LOVE, when it is expressed, can be one of the purest and strongest emotions. At least that is what it can be depending on the person. When an individual falls in love they can find themselves smiling for no apparent reason or getting giddy with excitement in anticipation of being with the source of their love. Some people love going to the circus; they get to experience a range of emotions from the varied acts on display. Other people get in touch with their sense of love when they are able to hike up a mountain trail then sit out on the edge of a precipice. Another thing love can do is steer you away from your daily routines and venture into new territory, exploring the ways 2 people can blend their individual lives into a shared common one.   HOWEVER when a person sacrifices their other emotions and rational thoughts to focus strictly on love, they then have entered the land of the extremes. In this place a person scrutinizes every action, comment and reaction from the focus of their love. In turn they react in an extreme way to the point of becoming obsessive. I was in a relationship some time ago where things started out in an easy way for us. We seemed compatible and had similar tastes in things. As the weeks went by little things started cropping up that I found odd. For example a delay in us getting together due to a prior commitment I had would produce a passive aggressive response in an attempt to make me feel guilty, hoping I would change my plans. This was a red flag for me and a cause of concern. Maybe if my ego was inflated I would have enjoyed the attention and their need to be with me; instead, it caused a disconcerting feeling inside of me. My instincts turned out to be correct. I was being turned into this desired object that they needed to feel fulfilled and complete in their life. Obsession can be a lethal road for one to travel on.   FRANK, played by Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals, Midnight Special), was falling deeper in love with Lola, played by Imogen Poots (Green Room, Need for Speed), to the point where even warning signs could not influence him. This film festival nominated drama also starred Justin Long (Drag Me to Hell, Accepted) as Keith and Michael Nyqvist (John Wick, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Alan. It was interesting to see Michael playing a romantic lead. He is an excellent actor and in this crime mystery he was good, but I have to tell you I felt he was not the best choice for the role. The intensity he has displayed in previous movies did not translate well in this one. Set in Las Vegas and Paris, I was initially interested with the story line and thought the acting was good throughout the film. One of the reasons why I did not feel totally connected to the story was the lack of back story or depth with the Frank and Lola characters. I could see what the writer was trying to do but it did not take me where I needed to be to truly get into the story. I love movies but I did not love watching this one much.

 

2 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Office Christmas Party

THEY had known me for several years. Every week the friends would come to my class. After class they would stay behind to thank me or ask about a certain movement we did in class; in fact, we talked on the fitness floor whenever I was there doing weight training. So imagine how amused I was when I bumped into them at a restaurant and they did not recognize me. Not until I told them my name did they realize I was their aerobics instructor. We laughed about it as they blamed their confusion on the fact I was not dressed in my workout attire; I was dressed in a pair of jeans and a sweater without my baseball cap.   THIS type of scenario happens to me quite often; truth be told I have done the same thing when a member from my class comes up to me outside of the health club. Isn’t it funny how a different set of clothes and different environment alter one’s perceptions? It works the same way I believe in any work environment. I worked at a place for several years with the same employees for most of the time. Every day we would talk to each other during one of our breaks or lunchtime; but it was not until we had our 1st holiday party where I learned several of my fellow employees had a completely different life than the perceptions I had formed from our daily communications. It was almost like an alter ego; for example, there was one employee who was a falconer and another who was part of a dance troupe in the city. I do not know if we would have found these facts out if it wasn’t for that holiday party.   DETERMINED to keep his company’s branch open and prove his sister CEO Carol Vanstone, played by Jennifer Aniston (We’re the Millers, Horrible Bosses franchise), wrong; Clay Vanstone, played by T.J. Miller (Deadpool, Silicon Valley-TV), decided to have a huge holiday party to woo a potential client. The only issue was whether the representative liked to party. This comedy came with quite a competent cast of actors such as Jason Bateman (The Family Fang, The Gift) as Josh Parker, Olivia Munn (Ride Along franchise, Magic Mike) as Tracey Hughes and Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters, Masterminds) as Mary. Filmed in Chicago, the scenes were a mix of indoor and outdoor shots. The story may have been a good idea, but I did not find anything new compared to other movies of this type. There were a few scenes where I chuckled and surprisingly I thought Jason Bateman was the weak link in the story. As for the script it could have used a rewrite to tighten up some of the scenes that dragged on for me. Granted I have never attended a holiday party like the one in this film, but at some point I thought the story was getting ridiculous. The feeling I had after the film was over was neither a positive or negative one; it was just an okay feeling, though I did enjoy the outtakes early in the ending credits. If your employer throws a party like the one depicted in this picture, maybe you will have a better time watching this party.

 

2 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Certain Women

THEY had me at the word chocolate. Friends were telling me about this new food product at the store; wait, they were raving about it as they kept saying I had to try it. So the next time I went to the grocery store I found this product and brought it home. I decided to forgo my chocolate ice cream for dessert so I could have this potentially tasty new treat. Opening the bag I stuck my hand inside and withdrew what I hoped would become a staple in my approved foods repertoire.   MY first bite was met with a textured crunchy surface. The chocolate taste at this point was diminutive. As I started chewing my taste buds were met with a stronger, darker chocolate which I always enjoy. However there also was another taste in the mixture that I could only describe as man-made or artificial. It was not pleasant and turned me off. But how was this possible; my friends were gaga over this product, convinced I would love it. I sat and wondered if there was something wrong with me; maybe my prior meal screwed up my taste buds. So I decided to try another piece after I rinsed my mouth with a swig of fresh water. The second piece had the same effect on me; I did not like this new product at all. Because I am a bit crazy when it comes to chocolate I decided to bring the bag with me to a get together the next day to see how others would react to tasting this item. Let me fast forward to the end of this story; it turned out a majority of the people did not care for the item, though several thought it was excellent. I cannot say this validated my feelings about this chocolate creation; but I just wanted to know why my friends from yesterday liked it so much. Well I felt the same way about this dramatic film; I just did not get it.   THREE women each in their own way are looking for a way to connect in the vastness of Montana. This film festival winner starred Laura Dern (The Fault in Our Stars, Blue Velvet) as Laura Wells, Kristen Stewart (Still Alice, Clouds of Sils Maria) as Beth Travis and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Shutter Island) as Gina Lewis. My favorite segment was the one with Laura Dern. I honestly did not understand the accolades this film had been receiving. Yes it was beautifully filmed; the acting was good, but I did not find this entertaining. Because of the positive buzz around this film I actually went back to see it again, thinking I must have missed something. After a 2nd time I still can say I did not care for this picture. It was slow and though things happened throughout the movie they mostly were done in a too subtle way. I even asked the usher afterward about the movie since many critics had praised it and do you know what he said? He said most people walking out complained about the movie being boring and dull. So there you have it; maybe you will see something I did not.

 

2 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Kevin Hart: What Now?

Whenever I see the city of my birth up on the big screen I immediately get a sense of pride. Even if the story shows an ugly side to the city, I enjoy seeing familiar surroundings. Let us face it, every city has positives and negatives; I choose to stay upbeat about my city and its possibilities. I have lived my whole life in the same city and have seen historic events throughout the years. When friends or family come into town you can always count on getting at least a mini tour of some area of the city or a visit to a local restaurant. I think having pride about the place you live in sends out a positive message. Not to come across as being too judgmental but I think if people took more pride in their surroundings and city it would become infectious to others. Having a good feeling can only create a better life, don’t you think? You have nowhere further to look than to your city’s local sports team to see the exuberant pride gushing out of the fans. If you have never been to an event where everyone around you was acting out in unison to a common pride, let me tell you it can be a heady experience. Please keep in mind I am not even talking about the people who over indulge in their celebrations. There was an exhibit that came to one of my city’s museums that was only going to be shown here, nowhere else in the country. You should have seen how all the people attending this exhibit were so excited and full of pride that the city snagged such an exclusive event. I even got so wrapped up in the enthusiasm I wound up buying a couple of T-shirts from the gift shop that was set up at the exit of the exhibit. It really is a good feeling to share your pride in something which is why I could relate to the fans sitting in the audience of this record breaking event.   HOMETOWN native Kevin Hart (Central Intelligence, The Wedding Ringer) wanted to have a concert in the city he grew up in, Philadelphia. His love of the city helped break a record. This comedy movie for the most part was filmed at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. The opening and closing scenes were created as a big joke on how Kevin would pay for this comedy concert. It also gave him the opportunity to interact with Halle Berry (X-Men franchise, The Call), Don Cheadle (Iron Man franchise, Hotel Rwanda) and Ed Helms (The Hangover franchise, Vacation). Let me first tell you I am not a fan of Kevin’s films because I feel he does the same character over and over. As for his style of humor, there are a few amusing bits he performs; but generally I am not a fan of using foul or vulgar language to get a laugh. If you enjoy Kevin’s work then you will have a fun time watching this concert. For me this picture was just okay; however, I enjoyed seeing a stadium full of people all sharing in a good time.

 

2 stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: A Tale of Love and Darkness

Begin with several words, string them together and let a story take you away. Let me show you what I mean. I will start with the words room, curtains, breath, light, skin and airplane. Here is the first beginning to the story: The curtains’ shadows looked like they were reaching out to me as I entered into the room. The light behind them blazed in a crimson red; I could feel the heat on my skin. This was my first time here and the air smelled rancid. It was stifling to the point where I felt I was entering into the mouth of an ogre with bad breath. Suddenly the room shook with a roar as if an airplane had just skimmed the roof above me. Maybe what I just wrote was the beginning of a horror story. Same words, but in a different order; let me see what I will get: The curtains gently rippled as a warm breeze passed them into my room. I was stretched out on the sofa, careful not to disturb the creases where the love of my life had sat minutes ago before they had to leave. Their breath still felt like it was lingering around the skin at the back of my neck. Our light conversation had gone into deeper waters with positive results. I agreed to make airplane reservations to fly out and meet their family for the first time. Now this story sounds romantic, doesn’t it? That is the beauty about stories; they can take us to an infinite amount of places. I love the way a story can take me away from my reality and place me into a whole different world. Some people read to learn, others read to escape; it does not make a difference because I feel just the act of reading provides the essential nutrients for the mind to grow.   AMOS OZ, played by newcomer Amir Tessler, was always ready to hear a new story until he felt he was living in some of them. With Natalie Portman (Jane Got a Gun, Black Swan) as Fania Oz, Makram Khoury (Munich, The Physician) as Halawant and Ohad Knoller (The Bubble, Munich) as Israel Zarchi; this film festival nominated dramatic biography was based on the bestseller by Amos Oz. Written and directed by Natalie, the story had a darkness to it as it took place during Israel’s formative years. I could see there was something to the story but I don’t think the screenplay conveyed it. There were some good scenes and I could see Natalie had a good eye for directing, but I did not find this picture entertaining. Despite the acting being good, the story telling interesting and the dynamics between the characters having depth; I was not always into the story. Granted I would not consider the subject upbeat but I think if the script was in different hands the results might have been different. Not that I am knocking Natalie’s 1st directorial effort, but maybe she should have focused only on that instead of the screenplay too. There certainly was a story here; I just did not feel satisfied watching it. Hebrew was spoken with English subtitles.

 

2 stars

 

 

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