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Flash Movie Review: Isle of Dogs

RETIRING BACK TO BED I could see the eyes looking up at me from my pillow. As I came to the edge of the bed there lying in my spot, with the covers pulled up to his neck, was our dog. He looked up at me as if to say, “Is there something I can help you with?” I grant you he looked totally comfortable and in place, but c’mon; he already had his own bed to sleep in. Anytime I had to get up in the middle of the night he would immediately jump into our bed once I was out of the room; he was such a character. Dogs have such a beautiful outlook on life I believe. They give unconditional love, get such pleasure in the most mundane of things like a stick or used sock and can be such great companions. To return the favor whenever I would say “doggie massage” our dog would immediately plop down on his side so I could give him a body massage.     ANOTHER ASPECT OF A DOG’S LIFE is their ability to instinctively protect a person. However some dogs may have their priorities a bit confused; ours felt the need to protect us from small children. It was the weirdest thing. If we were walking outside and a small child was nearby our dog would stop and stare at them. A low warning growl would be heard despite our pleas to relax. We could never figure out what his deal was about small children. Right now my neighbors got a 2nd dog who is a real cutie. Anytime I walk out the back door and she is in the backyard she quickly crouches down into play mode, with her butt in the air and her upper torso stretched out down on the ground. Her front paws directly out in front of her in anticipation. She waits until I call out her name then bounds over to the fence for me to pet her; unless I am wearing a hat, then all things change. She does not like me in a hat because she will bark at me non-stop, staying just out of reach behind the fence. Despite that quirk I still am quite fond of her which explains why I understood the reason the owner risked his life to find his dog in this film festival winning movie.      AFTER THE MAYOR BANNED FROM THE city all dogs Atari, voiced by newcomer Kofu Rankin, was willing to risk his life to find his best friend. Written and directed by Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore) this adventure comedy was so much fun to watch due to the creative animation. If you saw Wes’ movie Fantastic Mr. Fox then you are familiar with this style of stop-motion animation. With Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Why Him?) voicing Chief, Edward Norton (American History, Pride and Glory) voicing Rex, Bill Murray (Lost in Translation, Groundhog Day) voicing Boss and Jeff Goldblum (The Fly, The Grand Budapest Hotel) voicing Duke; everyone blended perfectly into the well thought out detailed script. I found the story quite relevant and appreciated the way Wes incorporated humor into the political scenes. Now the script is not without a couple of dings; there were a few times where I felt the story dragged a bit. It did not hinder my enjoyment because the visuals were just so much darn fun. I honestly do not know if small children will understand the whole concept of this picture, but I cannot imagine their curiosity will not be piqued. Even if you are not a dog lover I feel you will still appreciate the love between a boy and his dog.

 

3 ½ 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: Rock the Kasbah

The sentences that were being verbalized to us were losing some of their words on the way to me. It was as if their voice had been heard enough to transform into a blur of white noise, causing my eyelids to become heavy as they wanted to slowly come down like a drawbridge. The lecture was only halfway completed and I did not know how I would survive the rest. My head was starting to look like it was on an old weak spring as it would droop down periodically. I pretended there was something in my eyes so I could fake rubbing them, giving me a few extra seconds of shut eye. The individual leading the training seemed to know what they were talking about; however, their delivery was turning the participants into mindless drones, only coming back to life if a direct question prodded them back to the present time. I am sure many of us have experienced a similar situation during a training, lecture or workshop; the facilitator pretty much is going on automatic since they have done it for so long. And it does not matter whether it is done in person or via a webinar; they follow the same script, the same pre-planned ice breakers and the same jokes. To me the delivery is so important in making the event a success. If you cannot keep the participants engaged and interested in what is being said, then the session becomes a waste of time for a majority of the them; similar to what took place in the movie theater as we watched this musical comedy.    LITTLE did rock manager Richie Lanz, played by Bill Murray (Aloha, Lost in Translation), know his trip to Afghanistan would lead him to the beautiful singing voice of Salima, played by Leem Lubany (From A to B, Omar). Unfortunately it was coming out of a female in a country that frowned on women singing. With a cast that also included Kate Hudson (Wish I was Here, Almost Famous) as Merci and Bruce Willis (Die Hard franchise, Looper) as Bombay Brian; I could only sit and wonder if they realized they were stuck in such a poor product. This movie provided nothing new or exciting for me. I still cannot get over the fact it was directed by Barry Levinson (Liberty Heights, Wag the Dog), a director I have respected for a long time. The script made no sense to me; for example, what was the point of including Bruce Willis’ character into the story? Bill Murray was utterly dreadful; he brought absolutely nothing different to his character, having done this type of role over and over previously. I was bored through the majority of this film except during a couple of songs. When the picture was over I felt as if I had been slipped a tranquilizer or what some people call a roofie.

 

1 1/2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Aloha

While standing in the theater lobby you see them out of the corner of your eye. They are walking towards you hand in hand; it is your ex. The last conversation the two of you had replays in your mind as you move your lips into a plastic smile. Introductions are made as you size up your replacement. As small talk hesitantly sputters out you see the replacement put their arm around their shoulders, letting it drape down like a boa constrictor. Funny, when the two of you were together they were not comfortable when you did it. However, the non-verbal connection the two of you shared is still active and you can see in their eyes, they realize you are noticing this change or maybe it is just acceptance in them. You have images rising to the top of your conscience from your pool of memories. The dividing line that was formed between the two of you at the time your relationship ended suddenly turns porous as they bring up one of your shared past events into the conversation. Whatever issues the two of you had at the end, they are fading into the background now as you are remembering how the two of you really had a good time together. Isn’t it funny how time can either soften or harden one’s memories associated with a past relationship?    RETURNING to Hawaii as a military contractor now Brian Gilcrest, played by Bradley Cooper (The Words, American Sniper), was there to seek approval for a privately funded military operation by millionaire Carson Welch, played by Bill Murray (Groundhog Day, Lost in Translation). There was no way Brian could avoid his old girlfriend Tracy Woodside, played by Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris, About Time). Written and directed by Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, We Bought a Zoo), this comedic drama had such a good cast. Besides Bradley and Rachel there was Emma Stone (Magic in the Moonlight, Gangster Squad) as air force pilot Allison Ng and Alec Baldwin (The Departed, 30 Rock-TV) as General Dixon. I enjoyed the cast because they were perfect for their roles. There was a perfect blend of ingredients that made some scenes shine in this romantic film; but then there were more scenes that made little sense. It felt so disconnected to me; I just found the multiple story lines odd. In addition I did not feel any connection being formed between Brian and Allison which did not help that particular story line. There were times I lost interest in what was going on and for me personally there were not any pretty scenic shots of Hawaii. Sadly this movie was like a bad relationship; the kind you end early and soon forget.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: St. Vincent

There was a time you could find a commune in the heart of a big metropolitan city. It was called an apartment building; I should know, because I grew up in one of them. Everyone knew everyone else in the building; in fact, it was not uncommon for a neighbor to give a quick knock on the back kitchen door and walk right in since we kept our doors unlocked during the day. Before I was able to walk down the stairs by myself I would scoot down them on my backside to visit a neighbor on a different floor. If someone could not get out to the grocery store, they would easily find a resident who was willing to go for them. Babysitting was simple because there were a multitude of parents who would willingly help each other out day or night. I loved growing up in an apartment building though it did spoil me. When I moved out on my own I just assumed all places were similar to my childhood home. Unfortunately that was not the case. From the time I was born to the time I moved, a change starting to take place. It appeared as if the world was moving faster with less time to socialize. I had some new neighbors who would offer a friendly hello; but I had others who barely acknowledged anyone, wearing an uninviting scowl on their face.    RECENTLY divorced mother Maggie, played by Melissa McCarthy (The Heat, Mike & Molly-TV), had no choice but to impose on her next door neighbor Vincent, played by Bill Murray (Lost in Translation, Moonrise Kingdom). At first glance Vincent would be the unlikeliest candidate to babysit anyone’s child. Maggie’s son Oliver, played by newcomer Jaeden Lieberher, would soon find out Vincent was not like any other babysitter he had before. This film festival winning comedy had a lot going for it. Though I have seen Bill in similar roles, he really took charge and owned his character Vincent. He was a fun, wicked character to watch throughout the story. Melissa finally decided to take on a different kind of character; I actually liked the fact she played a straight role here without her usual schtick that she had done in her recent films. Add in Jaeden’s touching performance along with Naomi Watts (The Impossible, King Kong) as Daka and this picture had more to offer than your typical comedy. There were several scenes that were dramatic and moving for me. I may not have had a neighbor living next door to me like Vincent; but I sure would not mind one now after seeing this super film.

 

3 1/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Monuments Movie

Carefully with a crayon I would outline the picture in the coloring book, using a heavy hand. Once done I would shade in the different segments of the page. This was the way I created art when I was little. The first time I was taken to an art museum I was amazed by the artwork. Up until that time I was only familiar with paint by number paintings. It was not until I matured that I realized art was an expression or application of a human’s creative skills. Art pieces can move us to tears, laughter or reflection besides being a mirror to our souls. To this day I find it unsettling when a room has no art in it. I first became aware of the historical theft of famous masterpieces during World War II in the startling documentary, “The Rape of Europa” which I reviewed here some time ago. The idea of systematically stealing the world’s art treasures from museums, churches, even people’s homes was something I could barely comprehend. Whether you enjoy art or not; you would have to agree it plays an important part in a society’s culture. This dramatic action film was based on Robert M. Edsel’s book about a small group of artisans who were chosen to track down and retrieve stolen masterpieces, that were being amassed in Germany during World War II. George Clooney (Gravity, Up in the Air) wrote, directed and starred in this film. Playing Frank Stokes, it was his responsibility to bring together art experts and craftsmen from around the world, who would have to survive basic training before they could start their mission in Europe. Among the members he chose were Matt Damon (Elysium, The Departed) as James Granger, John Goodman (Argo, Inside Llewyn Davis) as Walter Garfield and Bill Murray (Moonrise Kingdom, Lost in Translation) as Richard Campbell. Now with a cast like this one would have to wonder if the movie was a drama or a comedy and this was one of my main issues with the story. The screenplay was dreadful; I did not understand why there were cheap bits of humor placed in what could have been a tense exciting film. Casting Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, Hanna) as Claire only proved that she was a better actor than the rest of the cast. I am afraid George Clooney took a light hand in creating this loose and confused movie. It really did not do justice to the actual people who saved the artwork and in turn saved a piece of our humanity. A couple of scenes had blood in them.

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Get Low

Sudden death is easier than a lingering one. As I get older I have started thinking about death; but not too often. Most people consider death to be a sad occasion; I on the other hand, want my death to be looked at as a cause for celebration. I would want a big party where people could have some of my favorite foods. My cream cheese pound cake was my calling card when I was invited to someone’s house for dinner. It would be a hoot if I could arrange to have a couple of cakes on hand in the freezer for my funeral. Since picture taking has been a big portion of my life, there would be pictures everywhere; from my old photo albums (before there were digital cameras) to framed pictures hanging on the walls of the funeral home. Recently I have toyed around with the idea of leaving a video recording of me talking to my friends and family. In this lush, dramatic mystery; the main character had a better idea than me. Feared hermit Felix Bush, played by Robert Duvall (Deep Impact, Secondhand Lions), wanted to be at his own funeral while he was still alive. Holed up in the backwoods for 40 years; the town folk feared Felix, believing the numerous stories they had heard about him. Felix wanted to hear the stories and set them straight; not only for himself, but for the woman that was in the photograph he had kept close at hand for all these years. Speaking of photographs; this film had such a visual warmth to it, I felt I was looking through an album filled with deep, dark rich photos. It was a joy to watch the cast. Besides Robert’s excellent acting, Sissy Spacek (Carrie, The Help) as the woman Mattie who had a history with Felix and Bill Murray (Moonrise Kingdom, Hyde Park on Hudson) as funeral director Frank Quinn were both wonderful. There were a couple of places where the story was predictable but I enjoyed the mix of folklore, mystery, humor and redemption. I felt a kinship to Felix because when the time should come I only hope I do not have any unfinished business.

3 1/4 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Hyde Park on Hudson

The challenge in reviewing this movie based on true events was not letting my belief in faithfulness bias my observations. Unfaithfulness is a foreign concept to me. Whether I am called old-fashioned or traditional, I believe loving a person unconditionally incorporates being faithful to them. Once I am in a committed relationship I only have eyes for them, no matter how corny that may sound. I was surprised by this movie; I had no idea one of the story lines was concerned with President Roosevelt’s love affairs. The object of his affection was his distant cousin Margaret “Daisy” Stuckley, played by Laura Linney (The Savages, The Truman Show). From the trailers I thought this film was all about the first visit of a reigning British monarch to America. Samuel West (Van Hesling, Notting Hill) and Olivia Colman (The Iron Lady, Tryannosaur) played the King and Queen of England. In the summer of 1939, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came to visit President Franklin D. Roosevelt, played by Bill Murray (Lost in Translation, Moonrise Kingdom), at his home in upper state New York. Fearing Britain would be pulled into the war waging across Europe, the King hoped to persuade the President in becoming an ally. If the story would have stayed with this part, the film would have been much better. The scenes with the President and King together were well acted and wonderful. At the start of the movie we were presented Daisy with little back story, as she became the narrator of the film. However, as the story continued she became more of a secondary character, blatantly showing the poor quality of the under developed screenplay. It was a shame because I was curious to see more of the cultural differences between the two countries. Those scenes had a gentle, sweet humor to them. Laura Linney who I have always enjoyed was sadly wasted in this film; granted she did not have much to work with in her role. This movie was like being on a bad date; I was not attracted to it, but did not want to appear rude by leaving early.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Moonrise Kingdom

Do you remember your first love or infatuation? I remember my first love or should I say what I thought was love when I was in the 5th grade. For my very first date, my mother took Diane and me to an afternoon movie–natch. This quirky film was about first love. It took me a short time before I could get into the rhythm of this funny movie. Set in the 1960’s; Sam and Suzy, played by newcomers Jaren Gilman and Kara Hayward, were the young couple in love. They decided to run away which brought the citizens of their small, New England town to come out and search for them. The director Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox) assembled an eclectic group of fine actors for this film. For example, there was Edward Norton (The Illusionist, Fight Club) as the Scout Master, Bill Murray (Lost in Translation, Groundhog Day) as Walt Bishop and Bruce Willis (Die Hard franchise, The Sixth Sense) as Captain Sharp were among the ensemble of notable actors. Each character had a different view about the fleeing 12 year old kids, who wanted to get married. The way Mr. Anderson filmed the scenes, my eyes were constantly treated to novel shots filled with nostalgic trappings. I almost felt as if I needed to see this movie again because I may have missed something. From an innocent time long ago, with a cast of characters, everything was set into motion with the onset of first love.

 

3 1 /4 stars

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