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Flash Movie Review: Unfriended

No matter what its size may be which was determined by a personal preference, it remains a portal to either a wondrous, magical world or a nasty living hell. For some gazing into their screen allows them to discover new places that trigger a curiosity that spurs them on to become explorers for several hours. They depend on their senses of sight and sound to develop a virtual world where they can be anything they want to be. Maybe a warrior or horticulturist, it doesn’t matter since each facade can quickly slip off to reveal a new identity directly below. There are others who experience a sense of dread when they have to interact with this sometimes taskmaster. Maybe for 8 or more hours they receive no vitamin D benefits from the emitting light, only a strain on their eyes. Granted a majority may experience this at their job which makes them compile reams of electronic data; the rows and rows of a spreadsheet seem like an advancing army assaulting their senses, working to drill a hole into their brain until it goes completely numb. My path travels down a serpentine road where I enter both dichotomous worlds, determined by a separate factor for each one: desire or requirement. What happens though when the two worlds come together?    ONE night a group of friends are chatting with each other online when someone enters their conversation, using the account of their friend who had committed suicide a year ago. Who would do such an evil thing? This award winning horror film had its seeds for a story planted in a good place. The topics that sprouted up were bullying, peer pressure, relationship issues and teen angst. If these subjects were given proper care, then this movie would have presented them in a novel way. However, the execution of it was so horrible I could not wait to get out of the theater. The entire movie was watching the images of the friends such as Jacob Wysocki (Pitch Perfect, Terri) as Ken Smith, Shelly Henning (Ouija, Days of Our Lives-TV) as Blaire Lily and Will Peltz (In Time, The Collection) as Adam Sewell, on their computer screens. With the bleeps, burps and bad connections that happen online, I was irritated through most of the picture as they were reproduced here. The last thing I wanted to do was sit and stare at a computer screen for 1 hour 23 minutes and not be entertained. There was very little to keep my interest since the acting was nothing major, the horror scenes were not scary and the venue never changed. The underlying topic was the only thing that kept me curious. I am guessing you can tell which world I entered that day when I sat down in my seat at the theater. There were a few scenes with blood in them.

 

1 1/2 stars

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Flash Movie Review: Clouds of Sils Maria

There is a lot of history that can be found in my collection of clothes. I still have this habit I have been trying to break, where I keep clothes even if I do not wear them anymore. From my years where I was struggling with my weight, I was fluctuating between sizes. Back then I had this thought that I should keep the clothes that do not fit because there could be a point in time where they would fit again. So you see no matter what size I was back then I could always find a pair of pants and a shirt that fitted me. I have been the same size for some years now, but I still have these old clothes hanging in closets, in the attic and in the basement. Once in a while I come across an article of clothing that has a story behind it. There was this copper metallic looking pair of jeans I bought just to annoy someone who kept telling me how I should dress. I still have a navy blue, pullover sweater that got its hole in the back when I lost my footing on a mountain trail and slid down until a big rock stopped me. When I am going through my clothing I can look back now with aged eyes at some of the things I had done and wonder what the heck was I thinking back then. I would like to say one gets wiser with age but that may not always be true.    INTERNATIONAL celebrity Maria Enders, played by Juliette Binoche (Chocolat, Godzilla), needed time to wrap her head around the idea of starring in a revival of a play she did 20 years ago that made her a star. The only difference this time was the role offered to her was the older character. This award winning drama had genuine power due to its cast. Juliette was outstanding in the role as her character had to face changing times; it was a universal theme that was relatable. The biggest surprise for me was Kristen Stewart (Still Alice, The Runaways) as Maria’s assistant Valentine. This was one of Kristen’s best performances and keep in mind I have not been impressed by her for some time. Rounding out the major players was Chole Grace Moretz (The Equalizer, If I Stay) as Jo-Anne Ellis; she was wonderful, also. The actors were provided with a good amount of substance from the somewhat lengthy script. I felt there were a couple of places that could have been edited out. With some spectacular scenery, good acting and an interesting subject; I felt this movie had some of the good qualities of a fine aged wine. There were several scenes that had French and German spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Water Diviner

Something must happen to one’s senses when they become a parent. All of a sudden it seems like their hearing stretches out for several blocks and their eyesight is akin to an eagle. I do not know how it happens but I can remember during the summer months parents and their children from the neighborhood would always be down at the beach and no matter where a child went their parent would always know their whereabouts. Even if there was a group of kids playing in the water; if one stepped on a rock and gave out a yelp, their parent back on shore sunning themselves would immediately sit up and scan for their child. I used to feel like I was surrounded by these superhuman mothers with special powers. That unique connection must get turned on from the love one has for their child. It is a bond that gets twisted, bent and squeezed yet never breaks. In fact you may have seen on the news that mother from Baltimore who, though her son had a hoodie pulled over his masked face, spotted him in a crowd and made a beeline from him. I heard an interview with her where she said she could not tell it was her son by his face; but just his stance and the way the sweatpants were hanging on him, she knew it was him. It is amazing what parents will do for their children.    WITH their death weighing heavy on him Australian farmer Connor, played by Russell Crowe (Winter’s Tale, State of Play), was determined to travel all the way to Turkey to find his sons’ corpses and return them back home so they could have a proper burial. This award winning drama was Russell’s first foray behind the camera as director. I have to say I was impressed with his first attempt. The story was big regarding the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli, so there were a lot of scenes and a large cast. Besides Russell taking the title role there was Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Hitman) as Ayshe and Jai Courtney (Divergent franchise, A Good Day to Die Hard) as Lt. Colonel Hughes. Now there were some parts of this war film that could have been cut back, especially the love interest story line; I found it to be unnecessary. There was also a melodramatic sweep through this picture, where things were predictable and seemed as if they were tweaked with the viewer in mind. In addition there were a couple of parts that did not make much sense; however, with the expansive landscapes, the international locations and the pure story line about a parent’s love, I felt I was seeing an old-fashioned Hollywood period piece. There were several scenes with violence and blood.

 

2 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Grand Seduction

The things people do to impress, seduce or persuade other people to do can really take over one’s life. I worked part-time at a clothes store during the holidays one season. There was an employee who would buy an outfit for herself every time she had a new date. Even with the employee discount she had a running balance on her account for all the clothes she kept buying. She would tell me a new outfit was like the front door of a house you are trying to sell; you want it to make a good first impression before the buyer enters to check out the place. This always made me laugh and I would tease her that if someone only wanted to date her because she had a fancy logo on her blouse she should try to exchange the date for someone with a brain. I understand how most of us would like to make a good impression on someone we are meeting for the first time; but if the person is only interested on a surface level, I have no reason to strike up a relationship. It does not matter to me what a person wears or what they look like; I am concerned with what is inside of them. As for the outside aspect as long as my teeth are clean, my face is washed and I have nothing under my fingernails or hanging from my nostrils; I am good to go.    The inhabitants of the small harbor town in this award winning comedy had more at stake in making a good impression. Acting mayor Murray French, played by Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter franchise, Gangs of New York), had to find a way to impress temporary doctor Paul Lewis, played by Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Battleship), so he would choose to remain and be the town’s resident doctor, possibly winning a bid for a new factory to be built close by. The mayor would need the entire town’s residents help if his plan was to succeed. This was a light, fun film that had good performances by Brendan and Gordon Pinsent (Away From Her, The Shipping News) as Simon. The story reminded me of those old fashioned screwball comedies from the 50s and 60s; maybe not as zany. There were parts where the action died down causing a lull in the story, making it somewhat boring. Some things may have been far-fetched but contained in a small town setting gave it a goofy vibe. There would be no need to dress up and rush out to see this film unless the other choices at the theater were not to your liking. This film made a decent impression on me.

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: North Face

There are still so many different things I see that I do not understand. Competitive eating contests would be one example. I like food as much as the next person but the idea of shoving and swallowing a bunch of food in one’s mouth in a short period of time makes no sense to me. In a circus I have seen some acts that make me sit there and wonder if that person really grew up wanting to swallow swords or chew up lightbulbs. When it comes to mountain climbing, the whole concept baffles me. I have no problem trekking up a mountain to a vantage point that looks out onto an extraordinary view; however, I want a trail that zigzags its way up where I can just walk and not have to use my arms to pull myself along. At the top I would like a little rest stop or cafe where I can sit out and gaze upon the breathtaking scenery. Even before the recent tragedy in Nepal, I never understood people who had the need to conquer Mt. Everest or any other high mountain peak. Hanging off the side of sheer rock covered in snow and ice, while dangling by a rope tied to a spike driven into granite does not sound like a fun time to me.    Based on a true story, this adventure drama was absolutely riveting. Set in 1936 at a time where European countries were drawing sides, it was important to Germany that they be the first to conquer one of the most dangerous peaks in the Alps. Their hopes were dependent on the German climbers Toni Kurz and Andi Hinterstoisser, played by Benno Furman (Joyeux Noel, In Darkness) and Florian Lukas (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Good Bye Lenin). Though they were experienced climbers the two men knew this climb would be their most challenging since they would have to compete against several other climbing teams to reach the top first. This award winning film had several remarkable scenes of Mt. Eiger which means ogre in German. Most of the drama took place on the mountain; however, the secondary story being held in the mountain hotel where childhood friend Luise Fellner, played by Johanna Wokalek (Aimee & Jaguar, Pope Joan) worked as a photographer was a needed respite from the intensity of the story. I abhor cold weather, am not fond of tall heights, do not understand the motivation to do something so dangerous, but none of it mattered because I was frozen to my seat watching this incredible story. There was German, French and Italian languages used with English subtitles. There were a couple of scenes where blood was shown.

 

3 1/2 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Arthur and the Invisibles

There is a whole world below you; all one needs to do is look down. As I sat outside in the warm sun, watching two 3 year olds rolling their toy cars on the ground, I was reminded of the first time I discovered the tiny world that lived below my feet. There was a line of black ants that went back and forth between a small opening in the dirt and what looked like a half eaten piece of melting candy. I was fascinated how each ant was able to carry a piece of the sweet treat as large as them without being crushed by the weight. Seeing a larger insect with multiple legs weaving between the blades of grass reminded me of an obstacle course I once saw on television. I recall how scared I was the first time I came upon a spider web that had trapped a live victim that kept trying to squirm out of the adhesive thin, silky threads. This animated award winning adventure film revealed a whole other world beneath us where the Minimoys lived. Freddie Highmore (August Rush, Finding Neverland) played Arthur, a 10 year old boy who was living with his grandmother, played by Mia Farrow (Hannah and her Sisters, The Great Gatsby). Past due with her payments on her property, Arthur was determined to  find the treasure his grandfather had claimed he had buried out back before he disappeared. His search would take him to a whole different world that was filled with surprises. Written and directed by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Family), the movie’s story kept up a steady fast pace. The animation was okay though at times some of the battle scenes looked more like an arcade game version. I thought the live actors were good, each playing a somewhat cartoonish type character. The choice of musical celebrities to voice some of the animated characters was an interesting decision. I especially liked Madonna (Swept Away, Evita) as Princess Selenia and David Bowie (The Man Who Fell to Earth, Labyrinth) as Maltazard. The story had a certain charm to it though it was pretty much just standard fare. It was easy to figure out where the story was heading. The concept of the Minimoys was a creative one, but there was not much done to explain their history. I thought more detail and better animation would have helped the whole film, though I do not think it will matter to young kids; most would find this a fun film to watch. I like to explore so seeing this on DVD made me feel like a little kid again.

 

2 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Daydreams are like the morning dew on budding ambitions. For inside those daydreams is the pollen of ideas. Many of us have daydreamed at one time or another; I am a firm believer in them. Daydreams provide me a safe haven to let my mind wander untethered from my required responsibilities. Sitting in a waiting room while my car is being serviced provides me time to take a mental vacation to a warm exotic place as the drifting snow outside the dealership fades away from my vision. After I lost my weight many years ago I used to daydream of being a dancer, specifically a go-go dancer. It was not because I was looking for adulation. After being uncomfortable in my body for so long, I wanted to see how it would feel to let go in a very vulnerable way and not give any thought to how I looked to other people. This dream stayed with me for some time but I never had the courage to follow through with it. However, that daydream played a factor in my pursuit of becoming an aerobic instructor. Finding myself in a physical activity where I was not being teased or judged gave me more confidence than I had ever experienced before. Someone else who had a fondness for daydreaming was Walter Mitty, played by Ben Stiller (Tropic Thunder, The Watch). To disappear from his uneventful life, Walter would escape into his daydreams of adventure and heroics. When his job position was threatened with elimination, Walter had to take off on a real adventure he never imagined in the hope of saving his job. Based on James Thurber’s short story of the same name, this adventure dramedy was not a remake of the Danny Kaye film. Directed by Ben, I enjoyed the flow of the story. There were several scenes that were visually stunning. I have to say those same scenes were the most engaging. If there was not some adventure taking place on screen I then found the story becoming weak, lacking any energy. The parts where Ben and Kristen Wiig (Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Bridesmaids), who played fellow employee Cheryl Melhoff, were together I found almost boring. It was funny because I wished the short scenes that had Shirley MacLaine (The Apartment, Terms of Endearment) as Walter’s mother Edna, would have been longer. This award winning movie was  a good effort but the people involved in making it would have done better if they had dreamt bigger.

 

2 1/4 stars

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