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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

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: Nocturnal Animals

THE talk I was hearing from people was this place had things “to die for” throughout the store. I decided I would check it out since the place covered one of my favorite food categories: desserts. Walking into the bakery with its fancy, carved wooden doors with stained glass panes; I immediately fell into a swoon from the overwhelming smell of baked goods. From a piping hot smell as if the ovens were exhaling cinnamon breaths to the aroma of roasted nuts wafting in the air like a low morning fog; there was too much for my eyes and nostrils to take in with one pass. The prospects looked mighty good that I had entered into a little slice of heaven. To my left was a glass case with three shelves filled with loaves of bread. Not your standard fare, these loaves had a variety of different looks to them. Some were a rich dark brown with shiny crusts while others had various seeds, nuts and fruit pieces covering their tops looking like those photos of rough terrain one would see in a friend’s photos from a national park.   AS for the cakes they literally looked like works of art. There was a cocoa frosted cake that had an abstract design made out of candy coated chocolate pieces across each side. On the top were white and chocolate ribbons that had depth to them so they looked like knotted twine. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement, especially when I came upon an entire case filled with cookies; the perfect food item in my opinion. No mess, no crumbs, no evidence of them ever being missed. After 30 minutes I made my selections and walked out of the bakery, laden with packages. Once home everything was set for me to experience these exquisite morsels of bliss. The first cookie I tried had an interesting taste; the 2nd one I tried had an unexpected flavor I did not find enjoyable. Moving on to a mini-cake I took a slice and bit into it. It was good but nothing special. My heart was sinking as my disappointment was rising.   LONG divorced from her husband Susan Morrow, played by Amy Adams (Arrival, Big Eyes), was surprised to receive a copy of his new book that was dedicated to her. The story would turn into a disturbing read for Susan. This film festival winning dramatic thriller also starred Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, Southpaw) as Tony Hastings/Edward Sheffield and Michael Shannon (Elvis & Nixon, Midnight Special) as Bobby Andes. The three of them were perfect in their roles. Written and directed by designer and creative director Tom Ford (A Single Man), the look of this film was picture perfect. Everything was in its place and each scene looked complete with style. The script was a story within a story where I found myself more attracted to the book’s story. There was more strength in it compared to Susan’s current life; In other words I felt more life coming out of them. This film was certainly a polished piece of work that just needed a little more work below the surface.

 

2 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Birth of a Nation

DISCLAIMER: At the time of my viewing I was not aware of the controversy surrounding the writer, director and star of this film. Due to what I feel is the importance of this historical story I decided to post this review. It is not meant as an endorsement one way or the other of the person’s past events; I do not have enough knowledge on this controversy.

The 64 count box had the ideal amount for me. Anything more would only confuse me, taking more time to decide which color I would use next. For a kid a box of crayons is an unlimited source of fun and imagination. In my world every color had a purpose and belonged in the box. I started out using the yellow crayon every time I had a sun to draw. Later on I started adding crayons from the orange family, giving the sun a morning or evening look. At one time I started outlining everything with the black crayon then shading in the rest with a variety of colors. None of my crayons ever went unused; they each were treated equally and belonged in that 64 count crayon box. Something I noticed when I was at someone’s house who had crayons; not all of the crayons wore down at the same rate. They could have a short white crayon but a long black one that looked like it had not been used. Another house could have the tan or I think it was also called cocoa colored crayon sitting in the box never to be touched or be part of the picture the person was working on. I will never forget in a science class how the teacher showed us if we took a blue and yellow crayon then drew one color over the other we would have the color green. It was a revelation for me. Except for blue, red and yellow all the other crayons are a combination of 2 or more other colors. The crayons in my box all worked together in harmony unlike the real world.   BEING one of the few slaves who could read Nat Turner’s, played by Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Red Tails); owner was able to rent him out to preach to the unruly slaves living on the other plantations. The things Nat saw opened his eyes in a new way. This film festival winning dramatic biography also starred Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger, The Social Network) as Samuel Turner and Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist, Awakenings) as Elizabeth Turner. As I said the story based on true events was important but I felt the script needed to be stronger to support the magnitude of the events taking place back during the 1830’s in Virginia. The acting was quite good especially during some of the disturbing scenes in this picture; however, there were gaps in the script where things slowed down for me. I was confused by the outcome that took place in a couple of scenes. For the most part the directing was spot on for this first time director. This was not easy to watch for a few reasons, one being the narrowness and ugliness of the times that only wanted to use 1 of 2 colors from a very small box of crayons.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

She could be so vindictive even while serving you buttered toast. I do not want to say she was untouchable, but she was essentially the only one who knew how to operate the outdated billing system at the company. By today’s standards she would have been written up by her manager multiple times; I was one of her victims having been on the receiving end of a spiteful attack. I had done nothing wrong in my dealings with this one customer; however, while she was on the switchboard she added some extra lines to the message the customer left for their salesperson. She made it look like I had been verbally abusive with the customer. Luckily I kept detailed notes about all my accounts, so her plan did not hit me full force. I will tell you I was furious and spent a long week dealing with my anger at her, devising imaginative plots of revenge. Each plan I came up with became more outrageous as my anger increased, even though I knew I would not act on any of them. But do you know what I did instead? I took my anger and started working harder at my job, soliciting more conversations from my contacts, to strike up a sense of familiarity between us. As time passed my efforts paid off and I was promoted to a bigger position. I became that employee’s boss. You are probably thinking I made her life a living hell, but I did not. Though I remained wary of her, I kept close tabs on her since we had to work together. Sort of the same thing the 2 agents had to do in this action adventure film.    DURING the cold war a new threat emerged that could become more powerful than the United States or Soviet Union. CIA agent Napoleon Solo, played by Henry Cavill (Immortals, Man of Steel), and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin, played by Armie Hammer (Mirror Mirror, The Lone Ranger), would have to work together if they were to succeed in their mission. Based on the 1960s television series there were parts of this film that were fun and entertaining. With a slick stylized look to the movie I enjoyed some of the banter that took place between the two agents. However, I did not care for the story much; it seemed choppy and uneven to me. The fight scenes only seemed to enhance this point; I did not like the way they were filmed for the most part. Throughout the picture it appeared to me everything was being laid out as an overture to what would become the main movie, the possible sequel. This felt like a trial run of a story so I will try to keep an open mind if the film studio decided to do another one.

 

2 1/2 stars

 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Lone Ranger

The first musical notes may not be recognized by younger people, but almost everyone else will know the William Tell Overture. As soon as I hear the music I can recall the excitement I had seeing a majestic white horse standing on its hind legs, the rider dressed in white except for his black mask as he exclaimed, “Hi-Yo, Silver!  Away!” Danger, thrills, disguises and chases are things I associate with the Lone Ranger. He was a strong character who fought for justice, alongside his Native American companion Tonto. In this action film you at least get the white horse. For nearly 2 1/2 hours you get a boring, ridiculous mess of a movie. Johnny Depp (Dark Shadows, The Rum Diary) played an ancient Tonto telling in flashbacks his story of witnessing the transformation of John Reid into the Lone Ranger, played by Armie Hammer (Mirror Mirror, J. Edgar). I am tired of movie studios slapping bizarre makeup and costumes on Johnny, thinking that is all that is needed to make a memorable character. Sure, I remember the outfit but I also remember Johnny hardly did any acting worth noting. Partners need chemistry to convince the audience that they have a solid bond and are there for each other. I did not feel any such thing between Armie and Johnny. Having the older Tonto tell the story was utterly useless; it did nothing to enhance the story except the duration of the movie’s running time. The explosions were well done and a couple of chase scenes had some thought put into them, but it was like watching fireworks. The story was so disconnected I felt I was just watching one fight after another. The only decent acting came from Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton, The Debt) as businessman Cole and William Fichtner (Contact, Black Hawk Down) as outlaw Butch Cavendish. The best way to watch this film would be going out for a meal at the start of the movie then arrive back for the last 1/2 hour of the film. At least you will get to hear the William Tell Overture. Better yet, download the music and look for an old episode of the television show to watch. There were a couple of scenes with blood and one particularly disturbing scene.

 

1 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Mirror Mirror

What do you think the Grimm brothers would have thought about this movie version’s twist on their original story? My guess would be none too happy about it; for I am afraid this mirror needed some polishing if it wanted to reflect a happy audience. Please do not get me wrong, there was nothing horrible about the movie; it just came across disjointed for me. On the plus side it was colorful, had a couple of good special effects in it and had kid friendly humor. The queen was played by Julia Roberts (Closer, Erin Brockovich) and it seemed  she was having fun with the role. Some of her lines had a sickly sweet, sarcastic coating that played off well against the rest of the cast. Where I had an issue was the Snow White character, played by Lily Collins (The Blind Side, Abduction). I did not feel she had any chemistry with the other actors, especially with what should have been the most important one, Prince Albert played by Armie Hammer (The Social Network, J. Edgar). The story line of this movie was a combination of parts from various fairy tales. When Snow White’s father the King mysteriously disappeared from the kingdom, her stepmother the evil Queen took over the throne. Letting her true colors come out, she started to treat Snow White like a pseudo Cinderella. As you can see, I found the story odd. But in the scheme of things, this movie was harmless and acceptable for a family outing. Instead of casting a charming spell on you, this film will only cast a forgetting spell.

 

2 stars

 

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