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Flash Movie Review: The Gray Man

THOUGH I HAD MISGIVINGS, I AGREED to join my friend for dinner at a recently new, popular restaurant in the city. I wanted to visit with him but was hoping we could just hang out at a local place that I knew had good food. He considered himself a “foodie” who enjoys trying the newest trendy restaurants; I on the other hand think of myself as a low rent eater who enjoys eating at diners and independent, family-owned places. There is a place near my home where the same family has owned and ran this restaurant since the 1960s. They serve simple entrees like turkey club sandwiches, tuna melts and burgers, each served with great French fries. And what I like about this place is the fact they serve generous portions, and the food is fresh and good. I am quite certain my friend would turn his nose up at the place just by its looks. The name of the place is written in red block letters on a square, plastic sign that hangs above the front door. Because decades have passed, the décor now is considered “kitschy” or retro. Realizing I could not dress in my usual relaxed weekend outfit, I asked if we could meet for an early dinner. I was hoping we could beat the crowds and if I were still hungry after eating, I could stop for something on the way home.      AS I WALKED IN THE RESTAURANT, I was met by an employee dressed in black slacks and a white, long-sleeved shirt. Asked for the name of the reservations, I gave my friend’s name. The employee confirmed the name on her tablet then directed me to my friend who was already seated. The place was done in calm, subdued colors of blues and greens with a hint of gold. On the table was a small plate that had 2 square dinner rolls with a ribbon of oil circling them. A small pile of grated cheese was directly in the center; it looked like the white ashes from a funeral pyre. Throughout the evening while we conversed, several plates of varying sizes were brought and taken from our table. The salad took all of 4-5 bites to complete with some special dressing that had a lemon undertone to it. I missed having a good-sized salad. The main course for me was a boneless chicken breast; I had to ask them to omit the bacon, the sauce, the onions, and the peppercorn. Everything was ala carte, so I ordered crispy fingerling potatoes. I had never seen such a small chicken breast. When the bill came, I was stunned. We agreed to split the bill; it cost us $100.00 each. All this money which I would normally never spend at a restaurant, and I was still hungry. I felt the same way about this film; all the money the studio must have spent, and I was still wanting more by the end.      A SKILLED CIA OPERATIVE UNCOVERS DAMAGING information on a job which sets in motion a manhunt to apprehend him, no matter the price. With Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2046, The Nice Guys) as Six, Chris Evans (Gifted, Avengers franchise) as Lloyd Hansen, Ana de Armas (Knives Out, No Time to Die) as Dani Miranda, Billy Bob Thornton (A Million Little Pieces, Bad Santa franchise) as Fitzroy and Jessica Henwick (Love and Monsters, Underwater) as Suzanne Brewer; this action thriller overflowed with fight and action scenes. It turns out they were necessary to cover up the poorly written script. With such a capable cast, this movie could have been terrific; but it never reached that level. I will say it was mindless fun, if one is in the mood for people being beaten up and things blowing apart. The fight scenes were well orchestrated, and I liked the various settings. By the end of the picture, I felt I had seen a compilation of scenes from previously, better done, spy action films. It just goes to show you spending a lot of money does not mean you will get a great, satisfying product.  

2 ½ stars  

Flash Movie Review: A Simple Plan

THE FIRST THING THAT CAME TO mind when I saw him at a party, was remembering how greedy he was when he was a little kid. Now before you say a lot of small children did greedy things, let me tell you what I thought about this one. When I was small there was not one candy dish, I passed up without taking a piece or two of candy. This kid was different. He would take a piece of candy; but when no one was looking, he would go back and load up his pockets with several pieces. Have I convinced you about him yet? I remember there was a dinner and we were all sitting around the dining room table. There was one roll left in a basket on the table; an adult was reaching for the basket when this greedy kid quickly made a grab for the bread. It did not matter that he had not finished the roll on his plate; he had to make sure he could get another one. He got scolded for being so rude, but he did not care because when he grabbed the roll, he made sure to take a bite out of it before putting it down on his plate, next to his other half eaten roll. I am telling you; he was not a nice little boy.      NOW YEARS LATER HERE I WAS having a meal with him being present. We were all eating at a restaurant and it was determined that we would be splitting the bill. It was easier to divide it by the amount of people instead of breaking down what each person ordered. As the waitress took our orders, I noticed pretty much everyone was ordering similar things. When it came time for him to tell the waitress what he wanted, he ordered the most expensive thing on the menu. I was still looking at the menu at the time, so I saw the price. He also ordered an alcoholic drink. Because people were talking no one noticed or if they did, it probably did not register with them that he was ordering an expensive dish. Part of me wanted to say something, but I decided to keep my mouth shut. And if I needed any more proof to validate my belief about him, when the breadbasket on the table had only one item left in it, he grabbed the last piece despite not finishing the bread he still had on his dinner plate. Some people, like him, are born greedy; others learn it. Feel free to see what you think about the main characters in this dramatic, crime thriller.      WHEN THREE MEN DISCOVERED A CRASHED plane in the woods, they found two things inside: a dead pilot and millions in cash. Each of them had an idea on what to do next. With Bill Paxton (Twister, Apollo 13) as Hank, Bridget Fonda (Single White Female, Lake Placid) as Sarah, Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa franchise, The Man Who Wasn’t There) as Jacob, Brent Briscoe (The Green Mile, Sling Blade) as Lou and Chelcie Ross (Basic Instinct, Grey’s Anatomy-TV) as Carl; this film festival winning, Oscar nominated movie was a solid production. It was refreshing to watch a character driven story that was well acted and direct. I found myself getting hooked into the plot early and enjoyed all the twists and turns along the way. The cast truly looked connected and in rhythm with each other as their emotions went on full display. Being an “older” film, I enjoyed seeing the sets and outdoor scenes that depicted a different period of time. Lastly, it always amazes me what greed can do to a person and because of that, I was especially curious watching how it would play a part in this thought-provoking drama.

3 ¼ stars   

Flash Movie Review: Bad Santa 2

GOING to someone’s house to share a meal and celebrate a holiday should be an easy thing to do, you would think. Normally you would not be expected to shop for ingredients that the cook needs to prepare the meal, vacuum or clean their whole house; however, you might bring a dish to share or assist in the cleaning process afterwards. All in all it is a relative easy experience. One big factor that could change everything is whether you enjoy the company you will be with for the celebration. Imagine how you would feel if you knew several of the guests there annoy you.   THERE was a sense of dread that weighed you down as you pulled up to their house. The hosts were lovely people, sweet and very accommodating to their guests. So their culinary experiments never turn out good; usually there is a total bland taste to the food or at the other extreme, a pungent foul flavor that makes the food barely edible. An easy fix has been to eat something before you show up at their place then eat lightly (and carefully), saying you are not very hungry. At the party the host’s cousin shows up bringing their untrained dog unannounced. The dog is jumping on everyone until it smells the food, then it takes constant monitoring from the guests to make sure this dog does not stand up at the table to grab some food. Another guest that is familiar to you is the man who tells inappropriate jokes at the dining room table. He usually has some prejudiced or sexual comment accompanying his humor. Then there is the narcissist who grabs your attention and will not let you go as they talk on and on about what they recently bought, how much they spent and their recent dating exploits; you see why there is a sense of dread every time you show up to one of these parties. A similar sense of dread welled up in me as I was watching this comedy sequel.   STILL drunk and obnoxious Willie Soke, played by Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, Our Brand is Crisis), could not resist doing another job with the man who tried to kill him. This crime dramedy also starred Kathy Bates (Titanic, American Horror Story-TV) as Sunny Soke, Tony Cox (Oz the Great and Powerful, The Hustle) as Marcus and Christina Hendricks (Life as We Know it, Mad Men-TV) as Diane Hastings. The biggest shock for me was seeing Octavia Spencer (The Help, Fruitvale Station) doing a cameo as Opal and that is all I will say about it. The script for this movie was very basic; the jokes were easy to spot and for the most part were crude. I was quickly bored by the story; not that I am offended by the humor, I just found it uncreative. There may have been a couple of times I chuckled if I remember correctly. If you were a fan of the first film you may have a better time sitting through this sequel. For me the novelty of the first one was not part of this picture. I just had to trudge through to the very end so I could review it.

 

1 ½ stars   

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Our Brand is Crisis

It seems no sooner do I leave the voting booth that another election campaign revs up its marketing machine. I finally throw away my homework on the candidates (I’m not a political junkie but I do want to know something about the person I am voting for in an election) and I am supposed to startup with a whole new batch? The political landscape has changed so much from what I remember years ago. Facts it seems are no longer important or less important than the amount of money in the candidate’s coffers. If I were ruler for a day I would make election day a national holiday, restrict all advertising to start only 90 days before the election, make all candidates hold at least a dozen town hall meetings across the country and do away with a majority of the super PAC funds that seem to have been set up to sway the candidate to be sympathetic to one particular interest group. What I find most troubling is the use of smear campaigns to discredit an opponent. I can handle it if an opposing campaign discovers something that actually happened in a politician’s past; however, the use of innuendo or implication without having proof appears to be more prevalent today and I find it ugly. Overall I do not like negative campaigns; I feel if a person wants to run for office then they must explain how they would do it without knocking down one of their opponents. If what was shown in this comedic drama is anywhere close to true then I am more naive than I imagine myself to be.    DOWN in the polls a Bolivian presidential candidate, played by Joaquim de Almeida (Fast Five, Behind Enemy Lines), hired an American strategist with killer instincts nicknamed Calamity Jane, played by Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side, The Heat). She would quickly discover she was in a race against her arch nemesis Pat Candy, played by Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, The Man Who Wasn’t There), who was working for the leading candidate. With Ann Dowd (Side Effects, Compliance) as Nell and Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Real Steel) as Ben, the cast was well rounded for the story line. However, the script got more dysfunctional as the story progressed in this drama. There were several scenes that seemed so ridiculous that I could not imagine they came anywhere close to actually happening, since this picture was a fictionalized story based on a past event. I was left with bored feelings as if I was watching a live version of the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons, with each of them taking turns on the receiving end. The dramatic parts that could have been effective were glossed over making them more like an afterthought. On the other hand, maybe this story was closer to reality than I realized which in this case would make me feel more disturbed about the modern election process.

 

1 3/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Judge

The spoken language is not an exact science. Sure there are rules we follow to aid us in communicating with each other; but some choose their words carefully, others say the first thing that pops into their mind. Then there is the inflection, the way we speak our words; some do so with conscious intentions. However, there are times where the intended remarks may come out in a veiled way that leaves them open for interpretation. By using tone, volume and speed to accentuate the words; they can caress a person’s soul like a velvet blanket or prick their heart with the tip of a sharp dagger. Adults seem to be better equipped to decipher what a person is saying to them. Children on the other hand are a whole different matter. They do not have the skills to navigate the convoluted road of language yet. A child proudly handing his parents a report card filled with all A’s and one B for grades thinks something is wrong when he is asked why he received the B and the A’s are ignored. Being told you are not drawing correctly because you are coloring outside the lines can plant the seeds of doubt in the child’s mind that they will never be an artist.    WORDS hit their mark with precision accuracy in this dramatic movie. Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man franchise, The Soloist) played high-powered lawyer and estranged son Hank Palmer. Robert Duvall (Secondhand Lion, The Godfather franchise) played Hank’s father, Judge Joseph Palmer. When evidence from a crime pointed towards his father, Hank’s conflicted feelings would spill out as he tried to determine if his father was guilty. To this film’s credit the cast chosen for the story was ideal. Besides both Roberts, having Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, Armageddon) as lawyer Dwight Dickham and Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket, Law & Order: Criminal Intent-TV) as Hank’s brother Glen Palmer on board helped to sustain the story. I found all the actors were believable with their characters. The issue I had with this picture was the script; it was uneven and stale. I found some scenes were memorable, filled with high drama; but then, the drama would fall down into sections of boredom. It did not help that the film was way too long. The whole story line involving Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring, Up in the Air) as Samantha Powell went nowhere for me; I thought she was wasted here. From the trailer it appeared this drama would be filled with high tension and intense chemistry between the characters. Sadly, the evidence proved otherwise.

 

2 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: School for Scoundrels

I believe I had this instructor for a teacher years ago. He was not a nice man and neither was the one in this movie. The teacher was Dr. P and he was played by Billy Bob Thornton (Mr. Woodcock, The Astronaut Farmer). One could trademark Billy Bob’s sarcastic meanness; he does it very well. The only thing though, it was nothing new for me; he has done this type of character before. The other lead actor was meter reader Roger, played by Jon Heder (Blades of Glory, Napoleon Dynamite). And here again, was a role similar to others Jon has done before. It just may be that Jon has a narrow range in his acting abilities, so he can only get cast for these type of characters. In this story Roger signed up for Dr. P’s confidence building course, hoping to gain assertiveness and get the girl of his dreams. I am afraid some of the actions taken in the course were far-fetched for me. With so few fun scenes, I started to get bored as the movie progressed. There was nothing horrendous in the movie, but there was not a lot of levity either. At the end of the day, just like I did not like that mean teacher back in school, I did not like this movie.

 

1 3/4 stars — DVD

 

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