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Flash Movie Review: Operation Finale

THERE WAS A PERIOD OF TIME long ago, when I was heavy into reading detective/crime novels, where I thought I might want to become a detective. I am certain the seed was planted in me by the Hardy Boys. There was a detective’s handbook I had gotten my hands on that I think I had read at least twice. One chapter of the book was devoted to the skills needed to be able to follow someone undetected. The following chapter talked about what steps a person should do to avoid capture. I still remember the first rule to avoid capture was to never take the same route on consecutive days. Whether by foot, public transportation or car; one should mix up their travel plans daily. After I had nearly memorized the handbook I spent one summer trailing different people in the neighborhood. It sounds silly now, but back then I thought if I could follow people and go unnoticed then it was a sign that I should pursue studies in criminology. What I discovered during that summer was people were certainly creatures of habit. The people I tailed followed the same course on a weekly basis. An elderly woman who rolled a shopping cart behind her always went to the butcher on Thursdays and the laundromat on Tuesdays.      WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT DON’T most people fall into some type of routine in their daily lives? Speaking for myself, I find comfort when I follow a routine. No joke, people at the office can set their watches based on where I am and what I am doing. It takes a certain mindset because I know some individuals who would go crazy if they had to follow a set routine. I used to work with a salesperson who could not stand coming into the office to take care of paperwork. What they enjoyed about sales was the fact that each day would be at a different location, have a different set of circumstances and be among a different group of individuals. Anytime they were in the office they would start to get antsy within a couple of hours. I am not judging but there is no way I could handle such a schedule. The closest I came to it was when I headed a crew of furniture movers; but even there, I was the one who would plan out the week’s deliveries, having a little control over my schedule. In the case of the main characters in this historical drama, routine was necessary if the mission was going to be successful.      AFTER WORLD WAR II THERE was one man that was credited with being the architect of the Holocaust and his name was Adolph Eichmann. Though there was no proof he survived the war, secret agents were determined to hunt down any clue. With Oscar Isaac (Star Wars franchise, The Promise) as Peter Malkin, Ben Kingsley (An Ordinary Man, Security) as Adolph Eichmann, Melanie Laurent (Beginners, My Son) as Hanna Elian, Nick Kroll (Uncle Drew, Adult Beginners) as Rafi Eitan and Lior Raz (The Kindergarten Teacher, Fauda-TV) as Isser Harel; this biographical thriller’s cast was excellent. They made the story come alive, though it took some work because the script started out way too slow and needed more depth to it. I enjoyed the last half of the movie more than the first; though I was fascinated with the agents’ plot which kept me engaged all the way through the picture. Granted I do not know how much of the story in this film was factual; but with a little more intensity and drama this script would have come up to join the cast’s high level of acting and make for a thrilling movie.

 

2 ¾ stars    

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Flash Movie Review: Collide

IF there is something harder I do not know what it could be. To see a loved one not only suffering from a health issue but also totally aware of it is awful to witness. I have always said when a loved one dies suddenly it is harder for those who remain behind; when a loved one dies after a long illness it is harder for them. After seeing someone in pain and anguish for a long duration, for those who were witnessing it, there is a sense of relief at the time of the sufferer’s passing. This has been my experiences as well as the friends and family around me. I remember walking into the hospital room of a loved one and being stunned on how much their face had changed from their disease. The face looked like one of those death masks that one would see on display at a museum, except it was hollowed out at the cheeks and eye sockets; it was just awful. Standing there in the room I thought to myself there is no reason they need to stay alive and suffer so much. I understand there are some people who want to hang on to every extra minute they can get by keeping their dying loved ones alive longer. Please I do not want to upset anyone but I have seen people treat their pets better than their relatives and friends when it comes to ending the suffering.     WITH that being said I know I would do everything I could to help a loved one get whatever treatment they needed to extend their life as long as they were not suffering. If it meant learning how to administer pain medicines or get the ill person to therapy sessions, whatever it took I would attempt it. But here is the thing that gets me, what about people who do not have any health insurance or worse they are not able to handle the out of pocket expense? Can you imagine what it must feel like to know there is a treatment out there to help your loved one but the cost was too great? How brutal would that be and here is an example of it in this dramatic action thriller.     THE thought of losing his girlfriend Juliette, played by Felicity Jones, was too much to bear for Casey Stein, played by Nicholas Hoult (X-Men franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road). He was willing to do an illegal job to get the money he needed for his girlfriend’s operation. Unfortunately the job did not go as planned. This film had such a competent cast that also included Anthony Hopkins (The Elephant Man, Hitchcock) as Hagen Kahl and Ben Kingsley (Learning to Drive, Schindler’s List) as Geran. Why in the world did these actors sign up for such a mediocre film is beyond me? The story which we have heard before was okay, but the script was so poorly thought out that I sat in my seat and kept thinking how silly the scenes were becoming. At least the chase scenes were exciting, some across Germany’s autobahn, but even after a time I was getting tired seeing so many of them. This picture could have been better if they had written the parts in a more authentic way. In its present form I just wanted to get to a car crash to end everyone’s misery.

 

1 2/3 stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Jungle Book

When something that has only been created in a novel or been seen on television comes to life it can be a miraculous experience. Think about it, for those who saw Santa Claus sitting in his big chair with a line of children waiting nearby to tell him their wish list of toys; it had to be an amazing event. Depending on a child’s age seeing characters from their video games brought to life must also be a heady experience. I remember the first time I went to the zoo; having only seen household pets, squirrels, birds and a couple of farm animals; I was so excited to see all the exotic animals that were living in the zoo. My very first stuffed animal was a chimpanzee dressed in red overalls. Now I was seeing what I thought were all of his cousins jumping and swinging around in their own habitat. I have mentioned previously how I prefer reading afterwards the book a movie was based on, due to the author’s choice of words are usually better than the finished film project. With that being said I have to say there has been many times where I love seeing stories, historical events and folklore coming to life on the big screen. When done right, a movie can provide the voices of the characters one has made up in their heads of the ones in a novel. They can also bring to life an event that took place years ago but still has an importance in one’s life to this day. Today’s review is about a movie that brings new life to a classic story.   WHEN it suddenly became dangerous to stay at home the man-cub Mowgli, played by newcomer Neel Sethi; was taken by the panther Bagheera, voiced by Ben Kingsley (Learning to Drive, The Dictator), who would take him to a safer place. Mowgli’s journey would be life changing. This adventure drama was absolutely unbelievable to watch on the big screen; in fact, I may go back to see it in 3D because the CGI in this film was beautiful and realistic. Kudos to Neel Sethi because he was utterly believable as Mowgli; keeping in mind he was the only live person in this fantastical family film. Now that does not take anything away from actors such as Bill Murray (Rock the Kasbah, The Monuments Men) as Baloo the bear and Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation, Thor franchise) as Shere Khan the tiger who were perfect voicing their characters. Having read the Rudyard Kipling book and seen the animated film years ago, I was totally taken into Mowgli’s world from my theater seat. I still love the first film but I have to tell you this version has every right to be considered a Disney classic on its own merits. It will not matter if you are familiar with this story or not because either way all the characters in this picture will draw you into their “real” world and you will be glad you were able to visit it.

 

4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Walk

I wish commitment and determination would play an important part in people’s lives as it did when we were younger. When you watch a small child that has been introduced to a new toy or even a benign household item, they will not let up until they can open it or make it work. I am sure some of you who have listened to an infant crying out of frustration know what I mean. Commitment has always played a strong part of my makeup; I am not one to make plans then cancel them because I suddenly do not feel like doing it or I got a better offer. Through my years of teaching I cannot tell you how many times people have asked me to sub out my class so I can join them for an event. I made a commitment to be at that class and could never on a whim suddenly decide to sub it out. In fact, I have in the past taught class while wearing sunglasses because my eyes were still dilated from my eye doctor appointment; even one week with a bout of trachea bronchitis did not stop me. It seems to be as people age they do not have the energy to see something all the way through; all it takes is one setback and they are ready to give up. I hope this has not come across as too judgmental but when a person says they are going to do something I take them at their word; otherwise why say anything, it is not like anyone would ever know.    ONCE he saw a photograph of the soon to be completed World Trade Center towers in New York City; high-wire artist Philippe Petit, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Don Jon, The Dark Knight Rises), could think of nothing else but to walk across the towers. The only problem was he could not do it alone. Based on true events I was familiar with this dramatic biography because I had seen and reviewed the wonderful documentary, “Man on Wire.” This adventure film was written and directed by Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away, Flight) and unfortunately the movie started out slow for me. What turned me off was having Joseph as Philippe narrating the story while perched on top of the Statue of Liberty. I felt him telling us what he was feeling at the time took away from the drama. However the last half of the movie was visually stunning; those who may have a fear of heights would have a hard time watching this film. The cast which included Ben Kingsley (Self/Less, Learning to Drive) as Papa Rudy and Charlotte Le Bon (The Hundred-Foot Journey, Mood Indigo) as Annie were fine, but if the script had been stronger they would have been better. Luckily once the story switched to New York from Paris one could not help but admire Philippe’s determination to create such an artistic feat.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Learning to Drive

She was the last of my friend’s three dogs when it was time for her life to end. When my friend told me about her dog passing she mentioned how hard it was this time because there was no one left in the house to listen to her. The dogs were great listeners who seemed to always do the right thing when my friend was lamenting about a troubling topic. The furry family would rest their heads on her lap when she was sad. If my friend was talking about an exciting event, the dogs would prance and hop around her as they gave out these short crisp barks; it was hysterical to watch them. Sadly her house was quiet now and it was having a negative effect on her. She used to peacefully fall asleep by listening to the low snoring breaths coming out of the dogs who would sleep in a pile at the foot of her bed. Even though it is such a cliche I told her it would get easier as time went by. I also mentioned to her that one of the most important things to do now was to establish a new routine. We commiserated about the things we missed when a relationship, both human and animal, came to an end. Since I feel a relationship will never last if one goes into it with the hope the other person will complete them, I asked her if she found it odd how we do not necessarily realize how we grow to depend on other beings to compliment certain activities in our daily life.    STUNNED when her husband left her Wendy, played by Patricia Clarkson (Last Weekend, Shutter Island), would have to piece her life back together which would include learning how to drive a car. When driving instructor Darwan, played by Ben Kingsley (Hugo, Iron Man 3), arrived for Wendy’s first lesson, little did she know she would be learning something more besides how to drive an automobile. This film festival winning comedic drama was an appropriate vehicle for the actors to delve into their characters. Along with Jake Weber (Meet Joe Black, Medium-TV) as Ted and Grace Gummer (The Horseman, Frances Ha) as Tasha, I felt the cast came off better than what the story allowed. There were some beautiful scenes that came across with honesty and integrity; however, there were not enough of them to keep this movie above the typical broken relationship story. What kept my interest was the acting and the contrast, at least on the surface, between two people from different cultures who have a shared common theme. When it comes to change I am reminded of the saying that talks about when you get the same results from doing the same thing, maybe it is time to do things differently.

 

2 1/2 stars

 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Self/less

I do not know if everyone feels it at the same time or if they have a sense of it at all. When one is able to experience that feeling of being invincible or powerful, it can be intoxicating. For me it happened when I worked with a personal trainer for a weightlifting regime. It was surreal for me because not only had I never felt comfortable in my own skin prior, I now was working out among my peers without judgements. The aerobic classes I taught took on a new level of intensity. Some time later a subtle reality check began to settle into my consciousness. I started to become aware of how my body was reacting to the high jumps and kicks, so I added more low impact options. At some point I started to notice any scratches or scrapes on my skin took longer to heal; it appeared as if my skin would not let go of these cuts, keeping the scab’s impressions on my less taut skin like shadows. As time went on I realized I could not lift the same amount of weights I used to, nor run as fast on the treadmill. Maybe because one of the fitness centers I taught at was affiliated with a hospital, but I accepted it as a part of the aging process. Seeing heart and stroke patients struggling along the track or on a weight machine kept things in perspective. Though I have to say there were times I thought it would be wonderful if we could trade-in our bodies for a fresh one. This science fiction film will show you one way it can be done.    WITH disease consuming his body wealthy real estate tycoon Damian, played by Ben Kingsley (Shutter Island, Hugo), discovered there was a way he could beat the illness and continue to live. He could trade-in for a new body, but how would his mind handle it? The idea for this story offered a multitude of possibilities on where the story could go. With Ryan Reynolds (The Proposal, Buried) as a young Damian and Matthew Goode (The Imitation Game, Match Point) as Albright, I enjoyed the beginning of this mystery movie. Unfortunately the story took an odd turn and lost its way; I was not sure if this film wanted to be a love story, action movie or suspense thriller. It did not take long for me to lose interest and was able to figure out what was going to happen. Out of the cast I would have preferred more scenes with Ben, but I did enjoy watching Ryan as he tried to convince people of his true identity. At first glance this film looked like a fresh take on a the aging process, but it did not have much life to it.

 

2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Boxtrolls

Guilt by association can be a decision based on a visual observation. What someone is essentially doing is making a judgement about you without having any knowledge of you. I have always taken offense to this type of discrimimation. It does not matter if it was family members or friends; I could never understand how people just assumed everyone in a group was the same, as if we were all made out of the same mold. The first time I became aware I was being judged was in school. Having been a larger sized boy than the average student, when it came to any athletic activity, I was usually one of the last students still standing before being picked for a team. Though I was too young to really understand the mindset, it did not take long before I became aware of many incidents involving me and various other students. The interesting aspect was witnessing how if a person repeated the same misconception over and over, others started to believe it was true. The outcome sometimes would be upsetting, other times humorous.    ARCHIBALD Snatcher, voiced by Ben Kingsley (Hugo, Iron Man 3), was determined to capture every single last Boxtroll if it was the last thing he would do. He had made a promise to Lord Portley-Rind, voiced by Jared Harris (Pompeii, Natural Born Killers). Eggs, voiced by Isaac Hempstead (Closed Circuit, The Awakening), who had been raised by Boxtrolls since he was a baby, needed to seek out townsfolk who would believe him when he said Boxtrolls were decent and good. It was the only chance he had to save his family. This stop action animated comedy was so much fun. The clever animation was done in such a creative way that I sat with my eyes glued to the screen. With the array of different actors’ voices, including Elle Fanning (Maleficent, Super 8) as Winnie, I found myself believing the characters. The script had its twist of British humor that was not only amusing, but made one pay attention to the sly comments that were being scattered about. Also, the distinctive look of each character worked splendidly with the script’s speech. I am not sure young children will understand some of the humor; however, with a bad villain, wild scenes and plenty of physical comedy they will still enjoy watching this adventure movie. As a fan of most film genres and my avoidance of any movie publicity before seeing a film, this picture reaffirmed one of the reasons I love movies; it provided a joyful surprise with its uniqueness. Never assume just because it is an animated movie that it will be a cartoon. There was an extra behind the scenes segment in the middle of the lively credits.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Walking with the Enemy

I would think a majority of us at one time or another avoid revealing our true identity to someone or pretend to be somebody else. Before she goes back home a friend of mine has to alter her appearance to avoid standing out while she travels through her native country. She has to take any colored highlights out of her hair, wear no jewelry and dress in tattered old blue jeans. All of this has to be done to avoid any suspicious characters who may use her for profit. A few winters back I wore a city policeman’s jacket that I had found at a surplus store. Besides finding it fun to wear it actually could keep me warm. It did not occur to me at first but a couple of times while walking up to a checkout line, the person in front of me would let me go ahead. I had assumed it was because I only had a few items, but then I realized the people must be reacting to my policeman’s jacket. When I work out at a different health club, I avoid telling the instructor I teach also; I do not want to be judged by a different standard. The examples I have mentioned are just a speck of sand on the beach of reasons one would use to cover their identity; but, the reason for it in this historical drama was one of the most noble I have seen. Returning back home Hungarian Elek Cohen, played by Jonas Armstrong (Book of Blood, Robin Hood-TV), discovered his family was taken away by members of the Arrow Cross party who were sympathetic to the Nazi cause. With Germany tightening its fist around Hungary during WWII, Elek thought the only way he could safely look for his family was to impersonate a Nazi SS officer. He would find more than he imagined during his search. Inspired by a true story this film festival winning movie had an unbelievable story to tell. I could not help but compare Elek Cohen to Oskar Schindler from the film Schindler’s List; however, the 2 movies were drastically different. This action drama was poorly made with uninspired writing and acting. Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3, Hugo) as Regent Horthy was completely wasted in this film. I did not find any acting worth noting for this review. Except for the obvious scenes that told you this was a story about the Holocaust, it seemed to me the movie was trying to keep it a secret.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Ender’s Game

One of the only benefits I felt for not being part of any school clique was the opportunity to observe the groups’ leaders. The athletic jocks were led by one of the most skilled athletes in our school. No one would dare cross him for 2 important reasons: 1. His group had some of the strongest and largest students from our school and 2. The football team was leading in their division. Another clique was referred to as the “Druggies.” They consisted of students who enjoyed and used recreational drugs, even during school hours. The only time there would be any issue involving them would be if an aggressive member from another group wanted to make some type of statement to members of his or her own group, by beating up one of the “Druggies.” The group that fascinated me the most was the one known as the “Brainiacs.” Its members were some of the smartest students in our school. Their leader was so smart because their identity was never revealed to the rest of the student body. For the most part no one picked on this group’s members. I had only heard rumors of the type of retaliations this group was capable of inflicting on anyone who messed with them. To me, I found it brilliant that the leader did not need to make their role in the group known to the public. It appeared they worked equally within the group and to me that was the sign of a true leader. Having read the book that this science fiction adventure movie was based on, I was already familiar with the story about Ender Wiggin, played by Asa Butterfield (Hugo, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas). Ender was being groomed to lead a new generation of young adult soldiers against a race of alien beings that nearly devastated earth. It was up to Colonel Graff and Major Gwen Anderson, played by Harrison Ford (Firewall, 42) and Viola Davis (Prisoners, Won’t Back Down), to determine if Ender had the skills to be a leader and defeat the aliens. After seeing the movie Gravity, I was disappointed with the special effects in this action film. They were okay but did not dazzle me. The acting was average for the most part; nothing really stood out, though I enjoyed Asa’s performance the best. Maybe I am comparing this movie to the book, but the story seemed rushed to me. The dynamics in Ender’s family was kept to a quick surface level and the part that interested me the most, concerning morality, was brief. My guess would be the sequel will possibly address those issues.

 

2 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Iron Man 3

Anticipation builds as the roller coaster climbs to the top where the tracks suddenly vanish. As the coaster car creeps over the top, I take a deep breath just before the wind pushes me against my seat. The next 60 seconds are filled with laughter and yelling from everyone as the roller coaster swoops and soars along the tracks. I enjoyed those older roller coasters, before they started doing corkscrews and flips. When I started taking ibuprofen after riding a roller coaster, I realized it was time to stop going on them. Happily I was able to revisit those same type of thrills while watching this rip-roaring film. After a couple of months sitting through some dismal movies, this 3rd installment of the action series was absolute fun. If it is important to you that the story follows the comic books, you will be disappointed. Since I am not a purist, I thought the story was terrific. Sure there were parts that made no sense to me; but the entertainment value was at such a high level, I just went along for the ride. When the mysterious, ruthless villain known as the Mandarin, played brilliantly by Ben Kingsley (Hugo, The Dictator), struck out at Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr. (The Avengers, Due Date), the ensuing battle no longer was about good versus evil; it was about revenge. Robert was at his best this time around. Pay close attention to his quick one-liners that were flying out from the wonderful script. With the actors being pushed physically, I thought Gwyneth Paltrow (Country Strong, Proof) as Pepper Potts and Guy Pearce (Lawless, Prometheus) as Aldrich Killian were outstanding. The same was true about Don Cheadle (Traitor, Reign Over Me) as Colonel James Rhodes, but I wished he had been given more screen time. The action scenes were perfectly balanced throughout the movie. I never felt the fight scenes were rushed; I was able to distinctly make out each character. Just like those old roller coasters; this film was exciting entertainment. So take the ride of your life; it will be worth the price of admission. Stay through the ending credits.

 

3 1/3 stars

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