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Flash Movie Review: Thoroughbreds

AT FIRST I THOUGHT IT was due to the amount of gifts a child received, but I am not so sure anymore. I have attended children’s birthday parties where the number of toys being unwrapped was almost obscene. The child would get so worked up into a frenzy that they were just shredding the gift wrapping paper, going from box to box. I do not know if they even spent 10 seconds focusing on the unwrapped package before they went on to the next one. For the longest time I assumed a child who gets showered with gifts appreciates them less than a child whose parents could only afford to give one or two items. There just seemed to be a sense of boredom that settled in with the children of wealthier parents. I remember one party where the birthday boy received a remote controlled race car and proceeded to race it into the walls until the car broke; it did not faze him at all. In fact, he just left the broken pieces right where they were and walked away.     MAYBE IT IS JUST ME but it appears the amount of toys and electronic devices marketed to children has dulled their imaginations. There was a time where a stick and a garbage can cover would be all one needed to have a sword and shield for King Arthur’s court. A pile of fallen, autumn leaves would be the domain of a king you wanted to depose. These days I see more and more kids getting plugged into electronic games. I used to make believe with my friends that we were a combat unit sent out to fight the enemy. We needed imagination as we used whatever we could find as props. I once used an empty dishwater detergent bottle as a flame thrower, except it was filled with water that would spew out when I squeezed the bottle. We had to pretend and sure one of us would die at each battle, but no one ever got harmed; none of us ever wanted to see an injury. These days it is hard not to see some form of real violence on the internet, television and video games. Heck, how many times have I complained about parents bringing their 5 year olds to an R rated movie; it upsets me. After constantly being exposed to violence I am sure it numbs a person to the reality of it. I think that is what was going on in this film festival winning, dramatic thriller.     CHILDHOOD FRIENDS LILY AND AMANDA, played by Anya Taylor-Joy (Split, The Witch) and Olivia Cooke (The Signal, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), reconnect after several years. At first they seemed at odds until Lily expressed her dislike for her stepfather Mark, played by Paul Sparks (Midnight Special). Now there was something the two friends could focus on. This bloody crime movie also starred Anton Yelchin (Green Room, Star Trek franchise) as Tim and Kaili Vernoff (Café Society, The Path-TV) as Karen. I know this film has been getting a lot of good press and I can see where it is deserved. The filming style, the acting and the look of it were all done well. However the story dragged for me; I never felt connected to the characters. I had a feeling where the story was going and admit I was surprised in the twist, but I left the theater feeling blah about the whole experience. And this was despite the scenes with blood. Maybe I need to see this again but I would rather go do something outside.

 

2 stars

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Flash Movie Review: Odd Thomas

SHE did not recognize the woman who was standing over her sleeping mother. At the side of her mother’s bed this woman stood still, intently gazing down while the sleeping woman’s torso slowly rose and receded with long breaths. There was no way to tell time but it seemed to only last half a minute before the entire room faded into darkness. Hours later when it was morning the daughter woke up and recalled the image of her mother sleeping and realized it was a dream. Over coffee she told her mother about the dream.   SEVERAL days later the mother happened to be going through a box of old photographs. When she came across a picture of her mother she called her daughter over to take a look at the grandmother she had never known. When the daughter looked at the photograph of her deceased grandmother she became a bit flustered. She turned to her mother and told her that was the woman from last night’s dream who was standing next to the bed. I have always believed there are no accidents, that there is a reason for everything. Most of the time I never focused on the possibility an outside source was influencing the event; I just took things at face value. Earlier I mentioned in a review about getting a new furnace but what I did not tell you were the events that led up to it. The thermostat that controlled the furnace broke; I initially thought it just needed new batteries. After trying the different batteries I had in the house, besides keeping up with my hectic schedule, three days had passed before I could get a repair person to come in and check out the equipment. During this time we had unusually warm weather so I did not have to be concerned with my sensitivity to cold. When the service tech came and started to work on the thermostat a device he was wearing started to flash a bright red. It turned out I had a dangerous level of carbon monoxide in the house. If the thermostat had not broken I would not have known. Was it possible someone was looking out for me?   MOST of the townsfolk thought Thomas, played by Anton Yelchin (Star Trek franchise, Green Room), was odd. It was just because they did not know he could see dead people. This comedic horror fantasy was based on the novel by Dean Koontz (Watchers, Whispers). I enjoyed the cast which also included Willem Dafoe (The Fault in our Stars, Platoon) as Chief Wyatt Porter and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Free State of Jones, Jupiter Ascending) as Viola. If it was not for the actors this DVD would have been even lighter fare. There was nothing new about the story and the special effects were not all that special. To me it appeared as if this movie was made on the cheap, not that I want to say anything negative towards the actors. They could only do what the script told them to do. What it comes down to is this: there is nothing awful or great about this film. It was just an amusement to pass the time, with a touch of sadness seeing Anton.

 

1 ¾ stars — DVD

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond

Summer for me meant the typical things such as hot weather, no school and trips to the ice cream shoppe. There was one other thing important to me; it meant the television season coming to an end until autumn. Most of the major networks showed reruns and I was perfectly fine with it. But then something happened and some television shows had more episodes than others, while others started either earlier or later in the season. Since I do not like change this caused me undue stress. By the way when I say I do not like change, I really mean it. Having a mind set of not fixing things if they are not broken, consistency brings calmness to me. In fact, just hearing the word change gives me reason to pause (except when using it to describe the direction I am driving); this is why I prefer to use the word evolve. Now the reason I am talking about this is my way of explaining the sadness I experienced while watching this movie. It was hard to see Anton Yelchin (Green Room, Like Crazy) reprising for the last time his character Chekov. I could not help but think the crew I have gotten to know will never be the same. My other sadness was thinking about the passing of Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock from the TV series and Spock Prime in this latest movie franchise. A part of life is death, it is an absolute given; yet it is for the most part an unwelcome change. With today’s review I did not want to turn it into a maudlin piece; I wanted to express my dislike with change and the sadness it caused, so we can move on to the rest of my movie watching experience.    RESPONDING to a call for help the Enterprise comes under a vicious attack that will change the lives of the crew members. This latest in the action, science fiction series saw the return of Chris Pine (The Finest Hours, Z for Zachariah) as Captain James T. Kirk and Karl Urban (Dredd, The Loft) as Doctor “Bones” McCoy. Brought into this adventure story were new characters Sofia Boutella (StreetDance 2, Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Jaylah and Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Beasts of No Nation) as Krall. I have to say these two were a welcome addition with both their acting and action skills. It was needed with the fast paced fight scenes in this film. There was a lot to like in this film but I felt the script was the weak link. I never felt I understood fully the villain’s story besides the disappointing major battle scene, at least for me. During a middle period of the picture I felt I was just watching a series of fights and battles that did not have much thought put in to where the story was going. On a positive note I really liked the idea behind the story, especially the dynamics between Spock and McCoy. This installment may not be the best out of the series but it certainly was not the worst. Outside of the passing of Leonard and Anton, I was not sad with the outcome of this film and left the theater feeling happy.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Green Room

The room was quiet and dark but I woke with a start as if someone had their hands around my neck, squeezing it tight. There were few if any shadows in the room yet everything looked crystal clear to me. I sprung out of bed as my lungs started yearning for air. My brain was bouncing off the sides of my skull as I ran into the bathroom to look at myself in the mirror. I do not know why or where that thought came from but I was quickly becoming frantic as I could not take a breath in. Looking at my reflection I opened my mouth wide to see if there was something that formed during the night in the middle of my throat that prevented me from breathing. I did not find anything unusual there. The past few days I had a head cold that I was just letting run its course; but I never experienced anything like this before. I was scared and all I could think of was if I collapse on the bathroom floor how long would it take for someone to find me. My ears were buzzing with noise as my lungs felt like they were about to rip open. As quickly as that vice around my neck appeared it suddenly disappeared, allowing me to deeply take in precious oxygen. What the heck had just happened? I could not go back to sleep after that and spent the rest of the night sitting up in a chair until I could call the doctor. This was the closest I had ever felt to death and it was frightening.   PERFORMING at a bar in a secluded, off the beaten path, woodsy area; the band performing had no idea how tough the audience really could be. This film festival winner had a spot-on ominous look to it. With Anton Yelchin (Star Trek franchise, Fright Night) as Pat, Alia Shawkat (Three Kings, Whip It) as Sam, Imogen Poots (Need for Speed, Filth) as Amber and Patrick Stewart (X-Men franchise, Match) as Darcy; the cast did a solid job in lifting the script up in this horror thriller. The story had a generic base but the writer added on top of it a chilling crime flavored plot that kept my interest. Even when bloody violent scenes were being shown, I still kept watching because the two opposing sides came across truthfully. I appreciated the fact that this story did not have fantasy killers or bizarre characters; everything shown was plausible to me. Having been a fan of Patrick Stewart for some years, I especially thought it was brilliant to cast him for the role of Darcy and I do not want to tell you anything further about his character. I will say though I thought there could have been more intensity with his role; however, that is just my personal opinion. From watching this movie I absolutely understand why people will do anything to stay alive. Several scenes had blood and violence in them.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

Once two people have a shared history of intimacy together, it will always reappear when one is in the presence of the other. They may have not seen each other in a long time; but as soon as they meet, that oasis of intimate vulnerability floats up from the recesses of their minds to create terra firma. A gentle puff of breath slipping across an ear can remind one how they were being held as they dove into a luxurious sleep. The scent of their hair can bring back the vision of a wide open vista of sun stained cliffs cascading into a deep canyon as both sat close, taking in the majesty of the moment. So knowledgeable of each other’s ways, the two created a world unto themselves that is separate from the reality around then. Two individuals who had this connection in this dramatic romantic film were Eve and Adam, played by Tilda Swinton (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Adaptation) and Tom Hiddleston (War Horse, Thor franchise). Aware of Adam’s despondent reclusiveness, Eve traveled from her home in Tangier, Morocco to be with him in Detroit, MIchigan. With the world around them in decline they had their own little safe haven until Eve’s sister Ava, played by Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre, The Kids are all Right), showed up at their front door. This film festival nominated movie grew on me like Spanish moss on a thick humid day. Tilda and Tom were so deliciously good together as the centuries old vampires. The whole cast was strong but I could not take my eyes off the two of them. They were able to convey a feeling, an emotion simply by the turn of the head or the gaze of their eyes. The script was smart and hip with quick spurts of fresh humor. Since some of the characters were vampires, the whole picture had a certain darkness to it; but, there was a subtle lightness that made for deep languishing scenes. I really enjoyed the way the director’s or maybe it was cinematographer’s penetrating use of light sources played with the blackness. Though this film was listed as horror, there was nothing I would consider scary in the traditional sense. If you are squeamish at the sight of blood, no matter the vessel it may be in, then yes there were scenes that had blood. However, I can only think of one scene that might be considered gory. Despite a bit of uneven pacing, by the end of the movie I felt I had visited an old couple who knew each other so well, they did not have to ask how the other one felt, they just knew. Brief scenes of blood were shown.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

When the opportunity presents itself I take a drive through the neighborhood where I grew up. I see ghosts of my youth everywhere I look. Playing hide & seek or selling lemonade on the corner, my memories waken from a long sleep. They are refreshed and vivid allowing me to visit with the younger me, showing events that contributed to who I would become as an adult. It is that history that reminds me how I currently arrived at this point in my life. Director J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Lost-TV) treated the history of Star Trek with the utmost respect for this 2nd movie in the relaunched franchise. The story was brilliant as we found the Enterprise crew back on Earth, unaware they would encounter a dangerous villain close to home. Besides Chris Pine (This Means War, Unstoppable) as James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto (Margin Call, Heroes-TV) as Spock, there was the addition of Peter Weller (RoboCop, the Hard Easy) as Marcus and Benedict Cumberbatch (War Horse, Atonement) as John Harrison. In this go around; the characters were more complex, filled with deeper feelings. Zachary was so incredible that I forgot about Leonard Nimoy for the moment, the original Spock. Chris earned my respect with what he did in this movie. I could almost hear William Shatner cursing at Chris’ exemplary performance. The nonstop action was exciting and evenly balanced to allow flourishes of drama and honestly, giving the movie goers a chance to catch their breath. I cannot add anything further to this review without giving away hints to the plot. Hopefully when people talk about this movie and they will, they do not say much about the story or cast. The added suspense, at least for me, made the time fly by. Also, I felt emotionally spent. Whether you grew up in the world of Star Trek or not will not make much of a difference in loving this film. History is what makes us who we are today; I tip my hat to the current custodian of the historical vaults of Star Trek, J.J. Abrams. A nice touch in the beginning of the credits. There were brief scenes with blood in it.

 

3 2/3 stars for Trekkies  3 1/2 stars for non-Trekkies

Flash Movie Review: From Up on Poppy Hill

Lady and the Tramp taught me about romance. I learned about hovercrafts and flying jet packs from Johnny Quest. It was Woody Woodpecker’s fault that I discovered we had a black & white television. When I was a little boy I knew Woody was red from pictures I had seen of him. I thought he was in color on our television; in fact, I even tried convincing my older brothers, until they proved to me that our TV was only black & white. Strangely I can still remember how disappointed I was to discover the Woody I had been watching was only different shades of gray. Gratefully that was not the case with this exquisite colorful animated movie. What I learned from this film was nothing is more beautiful than hand painted animation. There were times during the movie that the scenes reminded me of a Monet painting. Set in Yokohama during the 1960’s, this English version film starred Sarah Bulger (In America, The Station Agent) as the voice of high school student Umi Matsuzaki. Anton Yelchin (Like Crazy, Star Trek) voiced school paper editor Shun Kazama. When school authorities wanted to tear down the school’s old clubhouse, Umi and Shun joined forces to try and save the building from destruction. During their efforts they found themselves becoming attracted to each other; besides their mutual cause, there was something else they had in common. I found the story to be sweet, gentle and heartwarming. Little things were done to create these emotions. From Umi’s daily raising of the signal flags for ocean vessels’ safe passage to the respect given to elderly family members, scenes were thoughtfully placed by director Goro Miyazaki (Tales From Earthsea); the son of world famous filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away). I would think on some level there had to be some pressure on Goro as he created this film. His father had to be proud with the results.

 

3 1/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Charlie Bartlett

It took me one week to realize there was a pecking order in high school. The first time in my music class, I was picked on for knowing about Ludwig van Beethoven. For Charlie Bartlett, played by Anton Yelchin (Like Crazy, Star Trek), it only took one day. Granted, wearing a blazer on the first day in your new school was similar to waving a red cape in front of a bull, in my opinion. After being expelled from several private schools, Charlie’s mother Marilyn Bartlett, played by Hope Davis (Real Steel, The Weather Man), had no choice but to enroll him in a public high school. Like anyone going into high school, Charlie just wanted to fit in and be one of the popular kids, not one of the untouchables. Striking an alliance with one of his tormentors, Charlie set up a little business in the boys restroom. He would listen to classmate’s issues similar to being in a confessional and dispense pharmaceutical drugs to them. With any successful business, it did not take long for Charlie to get on principal, played by Robert Downey Jr (The Avengers, Sherlock Holmes franchise),  Nathan Gardner’s radar. This offbeat comedy displayed in a quirky way, the angst and trials of high school life. I thought the acting was well done especially from Robert Downey Jr. No matter where you placed on the pecking order in your school, this movie is sure to bring back some memories for you.

 

2 3/4 stars — DVD

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