Blog Archives

Flash Movie Review: Pele: Birth of a Legend

I wonder if the playground half covered with gravel had anything to do with it. Growing up not only did I never think about soccer, it was never part of anyone’s conversation. Now granted I attended a small elementary and high school, but even if someone wanted to play soccer it would have been challenging. The public schools I attended were in the city; they were plopped down in the middle of a city block with houses all around. There were no grassy fields, no baseball diamonds; heck, we were lucky if had a few bushes pushed up to the side of the building. As I mentioned before my elementary school’s playground was part blacktop and part gravel. There were no team sports and the majority of our physical activity was done in the gymnasium with its over excessive, varnished wood floor. The floor would creak so much when we were playing any type of game that it sounded like a backyard of chirping crickets. I think we may have played some kind of indoor version of soccer that we called Dodgeball, but the rules were different and I tried to avoid playing it because of the bullies in class. They used the opportunity to pretend they were kicking at the ball but really were going for someone’s leg, causing usually a bruise to form later in the day. So you see I never thought or cared about soccer all the way through into my adult life. If the games in this dramatic biography are typical of the average soccer game then sign me up for season tickets.   FROM an earlier review this week where I talked about not needing money to being a success, if ever an example was needed to show this was true then this film about soccer legend Pele, played by newcomer Kevin de Paula, would have been the perfect choice. His story totally surprised me as this film covered his years growing up in the poor slums of Sao Paulo, Brazil; where he did not even play with a real soccer ball. I had never heard of the style of soccer associated with Pele. It was amazing to see; I felt like I was watching a performance artist up on the screen. Also starring Vincent D’Onofrio (Jurassic World, Full Metal Jacket) as Feola, Diego Boneta (Scream Queens-TV, Summer Camp) as Jose and Colm Meaney (Law Abiding Citizen, Stand Off) as George Raynor; the acting was almost secondary in my opinion. I do not think this sport film covered anything new; so if one is already familiar with Pele they may become bored with this story. Since I had no knowledge of the man or his sport, I was fascinated watching everything. I will say there were scenes that I thought were poorly filmed making the action look cartoonish and the dramatic ones seemed typical and predictable. So here is my bottom line: I do not think this was a well-made film; but here is the thing, the story kept me engrossed and provided entertainment for me. Isn’t that what a soccer match is supposed to do?

 

2 ¾ stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Lady in the Van

Do you suppose between the realms of genius and madness there is a thin, semi-permeable membrane? There has to be because I have seen so many individuals who have greatness in them but other factors kept clogging it up from reaching its full maturation. If I remember correctly there was a world famous pianist who suffered with the fear that their fingers were made of glass; that they were capable of completely shattering off their hands or something like that. There are some creative things I have seen where I just wonder how the artist came up with the idea to make such an incredible piece of art. Even some of the new architecture for skyscrapers amazes me. It just makes me think that one needs a little madness in them to excel in a creative or scientific thought process. I remember this person who managed several celebrities and they always said most actors were crazy. Maybe some were, I do not know; however, I would think there has to be some mind manipulation to be able to inhabit a different persona. In fact I remember this other individual who was super smart; I am talking genius level. The things they talked about and did were way above everyone’s head. As time went on some changes came over them and their behavior turned odd. Nothing dangerous but I would say not rational anymore. Their life started going down into a dark place and they became addicted, or if not then constantly used an abundance of drugs. It was sad to see and then one day they just disappeared; no one knew what happened to them.    BASED on true events Miss Shepherd, played by Maggie Smith (Harry Potter franchise, Downton Abbey-TV), decided to take up residence in the driveway of the home belonging to Alan Bennett, played by Alex Jennings (The Queen, Babel). Her van was her home. This film festival nominee was a perfect vehicle for Maggie to soar through the story. With touches of drama and comedy I thought she did an incredible job. I had no idea there was any truth to this unbelievable story; to tell you the truth, I had a hard time believing it. There is much to like about this film; the actors such as Jim Broadbent (Cloud Atlas, Moulin Rouge) as Underwood were all well suited to their roles. As time went on I found myself wishing I knew more about Alan and Miss Shepherd. The few flashback scenes were interesting but I did not feel as strong of a connection to the characters as I wanted. I almost felt this biographical dramedy would be more effective as a staged play. It seemed as if the scenes were only scratching the surface of the characters; there could have been more information given into what made each character tick. Nonetheless the fans of Maggie and those new to her will not be disappointed with such a fine performance.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Big Short

My first piggy bank started out its life as a jar of chocolate syrup. With a lid that had a plastic bear’s head on top with a coin slot in back, once the syrup was gone and the jar washed I would save any money I would get inside of it. I had a total of 6 banks before I got a new type of bank; a metal rocket ship with a spring loaded docking port. Putting a coin on the catapult device, all I had to do was press the red launch button and the coin would be jettisoned into a slot just behind the rocket ship’s pilot cabin. As I got older all my change found its way to an actual bank with friendly tellers. I grew up in a time when banks were staffed by local residents; it was a place you could trust to hold your money and if lucky earn a little interest on those funds. As one bank started buying another bank which would then buy another bank, the small local banks became satellite locations for large nationwide banks. Some of the employees were replaced and though the new ones were friendly, it was a scripted friendliness as their goal was to sell you one of the bank’s new financial products. So they were not as personal as I remembered, but I still trusted them. It was not until later in life when I refinanced my place that I lost all trust with the banking institutions. And the fact that this happened around  the same time as the story in this biographical film only made me angry all over again.    FUND manager Dr. Michael Burry, played by Christian Bale (The Flowers of War, Public Enemies), discovered something that no one else realized about the housing market. The banks thought he was crazy. Based on Michael Lewis’ (The Blind Side, Moneyball) best seller, this comedic film festival winning drama had such a great cast that included Ryan Gosling (Gangster Squad, Half Nelson) as Jared Vennett and Steve Carell (Freeheld, Foxcatcher) as Mark Blum. I have a new appreciation for Steve’s dramatic acting abilities. The script was laced with numerous funny moments as three stories were running parallel to each other. What I found to be a brilliant stroke of genius was the way the writers used plain talking speech in a humorous setting to explain some of the business products and practices discussed in this film. In fact, I learned more from this excellent movie than numerous articles and publications I have read about the economy. Now before you say you get bored when people start talking about business, let me tell you this film kept things interesting, moving along with the help of the film editor and director; there was not a dull moment. However, there is a chance you may get angry after you see what took place in this well done picture.

 

3 1/2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Danish Girl

At some point the two individuals decide to spend their lives with each other and the weaving begins. Like craftsmen their lives intermingle into a finely woven mesh, similar to a fishing net. The two cast their net out into the sea of hope and dreams, letting the currents spread it wide to capture good fortune. Their net will remain strong through any type of storm; the only thing that could create a hole is doubt. If either person discovers they cannot love unconditionally then the net of their life begins to unravel, parts splitting off and traveling to darker depths. I have always believed a relationship will last when both parties accept their significant other completely. There have been so many times where I have seen someone falling in love who thinks they are in love, but is more in love with the idea of falling in love. Sure they may be fond of the person they are dating, but somewhere inside of them they have this little checklist displaying the things that are “wrong.” There is this friend of mine who for some reason enjoys testing me on my definition of beauty. They will point to a stranger and ask me if I think they are beautiful. I know they want an answer based on the looks of the person, but I keep saying I cannot tell if they are beautiful until I know what is inside of them. Sure there may be surface features that are attractive but it can be so fleeting; the character, the personality, the morals, the compatibility of a person would be some of the elements that are more important to me. Maybe it is easier to simply say their soul.    FILLING in as a model for his artist wife Gerda, played by Alicia Vikander (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Ex Machina); Danish artist Einar Wegener, played by Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, My Week with Marilyn), donned the clothing that was picked out and suddenly felt more like himself than he ever did before. This film festival winning biographical drama was based on a true story. It was brilliantly brought to life by Eddie and Alicia; their acting was amazing to see. The depth of their emotions was authentic and convincing to me; I easily see an Oscar nomination for both of them. Even the supporting cast, such a Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone, The Drop) as Hans Axgil and Amber Heard (Pineapple Express, Zombieland) as Ulla, was a good compliment to the two main stars. Set during the early 1920s in Copenhagen, the sets and outdoor shots were ideal. The story was captivating and interesting almost to the end; however, the last part of the film fell apart for me. I felt the script let the cast down. In addition, there were a few scenes that did not register as true compared to other ones. This incredible story explored the meaning of love and the cast delivered it.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Trumbo

It did not matter that she was fond of him or even possibly in love with him, people were already passing judgement. She had met him in college during a social function on campus. They started out as friends, but it quickly moved into a romantic relationship. Several of her friends finally showed their true colors when she started dating this man. The reason being the man aka boyfriend was of a different race. Now some of her friends did not react at all, it did not matter to them; as long as she was happy that is all that mattered. But some of her so called “good” friends thought it was wrong. Personally, I was shocked by their reactions since I felt it was no one’s business who she dated and ultimately, why it should even matter to anyone else. The sad part of it was from that moment on she was labeled, though she did not know it. Even passing acquaintances made up their mind about her and her boyfriend without ever meeting him. It reminded me of another friend of mine who was dating someone of a different faith. Their parents were wildly upset about it and barely hid their feelings on the subject. As you may be wondering, this only pushed my friend harder to make the relationship work. However, after a year of dating the two decided they would be better off just being friends. These two events really opened my mind up to the fact there are many people in this world who make snap decisions about individuals without ever meeting or knowing them.    HOLLYWOOD’S top screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, played by Bryan Cranston (Argo, Breaking Bad-TV), lost his status due to his political views. The only weapon available to him to fight back was his words. Based on a true event this biographical drama was a fascinating story to me. It was startling to see Hollywood back in the 1940s and 50s during this period of Dalton’s life. With Diane Lane (Man of Steel, The Perfect Storm) as Cleo Trumbo, Louis C.K. (Blue Jasmine, Louie-TV) as Arlen Hird and Helen Mirren (Woman in Gold, The Queen) as Hedda Hopper; I felt like I was getting a Hollywood history lesson. The acting was exceptionally good, particularly by Bryan. The story is an important one I believe and I just wished the script had done a better job of it. There were times where I felt scenes lost their magic and turned dull in a cartoonish type of way. It was possible the directing did not help out because the story moved in a blockish way, coming across more like skits. However, a treat for me was seeing portrayals of old-time actors and directors like Edward G. Robinson and Otto Preminger being played out in this story. I think the subject matter in this film is just as relevant today as it was back then. One can only hope people watch this movie before making up their minds.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The 33

In a way you can call it a controlled scare. When one goes to see a horror film it is a given that they could get scared but nothing will happen to them. I enjoy going to see a suspenseful horror film if it is done well. The type that puts the viewers on the edge of their seat, holding their breath, waiting to see what will happen next. Just as I believe we should choose food from every color group, I feel the same way about experiencing all emotions. I believe it is healthy for the body to feel happiness just as well as sadness; it provides definition in living one’s life. Another thing, I find reality to be scarier than anything in a movie. There was a film I recently reviewed about Mt. Everest; it was thrilling and scary to see what the climbers endured because there is no way you would find me anywhere near the place. Instead I get to live it vicariously through film. These true scary stories we hear about, that actually happened to someone, can make for a powerful film watching experience. This is why I particularly look forward to seeing movies that were based on true events. Some of them have historical value while others can tell the story about the obstacles one individual had to overcome in their life. I appreciate all of them and that is why I could not wait to see this biographical drama.    THIRTY-THREE miners made their way down the only path into the mine that most of them have taken many times before. Except this time their path was changing to a one way road. This film festival winning movie had a story familiar to me; I had seen and read about it on the news. Based on true events the large cast involved in this story included Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In, The Big Bang) as Mario Sepulveda, Juliette Binoche (Godzilla, Clouds of Sils Maria) as Maria Segovia and Lou Diamond Phillips (Young Guns, Courage Under Fire) as Don Lucho. I did not mind the acting however what they had to say was pretty corny. The script was riddled with this rah, rah courage that did not seem real to me. It was a shame because the story was truly unbelievable. I assume everyone must know about it but just in case I will refrain from divulging much about the story. To think the actors were portraying actual people who lived this experience, it really was a miracle. I found the special effects effective because they looked so believable to me. Part of the issue with this picture may have to do with the writers having to include so many characters; I never got a true sense of what each of the individuals was experiencing through this event. Seeing pictures of the actual miners at the end of the movie really drove home how lucky and amazing they were to be alive to see their story now made into a film.

 

2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Imitation Game

Unless there is some kind of hard proof or evidence, I do not quite understand why someone would discourage another person from trying something different. Though I saw more of it during my school years, I still witness people putting a negative spin on someone else who is attempting to do something different from what they would do. You could easily extend this type of negativity to those individuals who were just being different, but that would take up a whole lot more space for today’s review. My way of learning something is to make a mistake because then I can align my logic with reality’s logic; did that make sense to you? I can remember building a science project and the teacher telling me I was doing it wrong. How did she know it was wrong before I was done? The funny thing about it was I had been building a work environment for a left-handed person; so, everything was placed opposite from what the instructor was used to as a right-handed person. Imagine if someone told Albert Einstein he was on the wrong track when he was working on his theory of relativity; I am a firm believer in embracing differences. It is our differences that can make our world a better place.    DURING World War II the Nazis were communicating by using an unbreakable code machine called Enigma. Assembling the smartest people of their time, British intelligence was not quite sure about mathematician Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate, Sherlock-TV). He wanted to do something completely different from everyone else. Based on true life events, this film festival winning dramatic thriller was a biographical blend of history, war film and intense excitement. I had some knowledge about Alan going into this picture, but I do not know how much of the movie’s story was true. But you know something; I could not have cared less. This film was so well done with a brilliant cast that also included Keira Knightley (Begin Again, Pride & Prejudice) as Joan Clarke, Charles Dance (Dracula Untold, Game of Thrones-TV) as Commander Denniston and Mark Strong (Body of Lies, Robin Hood) as Stewart Menzies. There was such a vibe of civility and subtleness throughout this movie that Benedict was perfectly able to convey to the viewers; he was truly amazing. I was swept away by this film; going through the same emotions at the same time as the characters were in the story. Just the historical importance of Alan’s role in history was enough to carry this movie, but I was glad there was more included from the writers. I for one was so grateful Alan was different.

 

4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Foxcatcher

It would be hard for some to understand the challenge if they did not know the burden. Living under the weight of expectations or in the shadow of an older sibling can add an unnecessary strain to one’s daily life. There have been studies that looked at siblings’ birth order as a means to understand the psychology behind each one’s actions. Quick examples would be the oldest one could become the caretaker or dominant one while the youngest had the least parental restrictions placed on them, becoming spoiled. I remember a college course where we dissected case studies of actual family dynamics. A couple had 2 sons where the oldest was their pride and joy; the other one was always being told to act more like his older brother. After the two boys reached their teen years, the first born was given a gun for hunting. Sadly a year or so later the boy killed himself with the very rifle his parents had given him. The parents were devastated as they plunged into despair and sadness. The living sibling was barely acknowledged at times. However, the following Christmas the parents presented him with a large gift wrapped present. When he opened it up he found the same rifle that his brother had used to kill himself. Think about the message the parents were sending their second child.    SUCCESS was hard to acknowledge when trouble was brewing underneath in this biographical drama. Based on a true story, winning the gold medal did not translate into financial success for wrestler Mark Schultz, played by Channing Tatum (White House Down, Side Effects). Living under the shadow of his older brother David, played by Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, Begin Again); David felt he was going nowhere until he received a strange phone call from financial heir John du Pont, played by Steve Carell (Get Smart, Dan in Real Life). David was offered the chance to train and lead an elite group of wrestlers towards gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The acting was incredible in this film festival winning movie. Steve Carell was utterly creepy in this dramatic role. Vaguely remembering the story about John du Pont I found this movie to be more of a psychological sports drama. Though it was directed by winning director Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote); I thought the film dragged, especially in the first half of the story. There were times the screen went dark without sound where I thought something was wrong with the movie projector; it did not help in the entertainment department in my opinion. This film had a thoughtful dark story that did not come up to the same level as the acting.

 

2 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Rosewater

Humor is the soothing balm that cures the mind’s ailments. A good laugh can expel the dark clouds that build up to weigh down one’s thoughts. My sense of humor leans more toward the satirical instead of cracking a joke at someone’s expense. Since humor is a personal thing it may be hard to know when someone is making a joke when they are not familiar to you. There has been so many times where I have met someone new who said something they thought was funny but I did not get it. I may not understand their joke because when a person tells me something I assume they are telling me the truth until proven otherwise. Now I am guilty of doing the same thing regarding telling jokes to strangers; however, with a straight face I try to say things so outrageous they would be hard to believe. Of course there could be the issue of gullibility; some individuals go through life with a non-skeptical mind. My brain on the other hand has skepticism as its first filter for processing. Once two people understand each other’s sense of humor, the possibilities of eliciting laughter are endless.    UNFAMILIARITY with a television show’s humor would lead to dire consequences in this biographical drama. Based on journalist Maziar Bahari’s book, “Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love;” this movie covered the time Maziar Bahari, played by Gael Garcia Bernal (Bad Education, Letters to Juliet), was held captive in an Iranian prison while he was there covering the country’s elections. Unable to make contact with his mother Molloon, played by Shohreh Aghdashloo (The Lake House, The Stoning of Soraya M.), he was only aware of his Iranian captor Javadi’s rosewater scent, played by Kim Bodnia (Bleeder, Pusher). Maziar could not believe his captors thought he was a spy due to what they saw on a television show. Using this story for his screen writing and directorial debut Jon Stewart (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) had a good grasp on what was needed to make an engaging film. With well done cinematography, the pacing was consistent even when a scene would jump to a different time period. The cast’s acting was exceptionally good which I felt made Jon’s job easier. For me the story was one of those stranger than truth type of stories where I sat there thinking how could this have really happened. My main issue with this film was how everything stayed on the same emotional level. It lacked intensity for me; however, I may be projecting here. Considering the scenarios, I thought this movie would have been an intense ordeal; maybe the book went into more detail. No matter, with this being Jon’s first time as a director he has no worries of anyone laughing at his creation.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Theory of Everything

If you happen to trip or fall and break a bone, it usually can get fixed. Joints after years of an active lifestyle are now being replaced with high-tech metal products. However, when the body is attacked by a disease the landscape of the person’s life is forever altered. I am old enough to remember a time when people would avoid talking about their or a family member’s affliction. Those that were children were separated from the general student population; rarely to be seen except for the occasional assembly where they were relegated to a section of seats far from the other students. There were few outlets where adults could get special attention to assist them in achieving or maintaining a level of quality to their lives. It was not unusual for healthy individuals to react with fear and avoid those who were dealing with a physical or mental challenge. In fact, I am going to share with you a tidbit that might surprise you. Kids who were bullied would develop a dislike or even hatred towards disadvantaged peers. You see with the constant barrage of negative comments and physical abuse, the victims would redirect their anger towards an easy target which usually would be a challenged individual. I know this may sound twisted to you; that internalization of not being perfect can warp a person’s perceptions. Gratefully we have advanced and there are people who set a high standard for what can be achieved.    PHYSICAL limitations could not stop Stephen Hawking, played by Eddie Redmayne (My Week with Marilyn, Les Miserables), from exploring his ideas about the universe. Based on Stephen’s first wife Jane’s book, “Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen,” this film festival winning biographical drama followed the challenges and achievements of two extraordinary individuals. With Felicity Jones (The Invisible Woman, Like Crazy) playing Jane, the two actors were wonderful together. They acted and appeared as these two strong characters who together could take on any obstacles. Eddie was beyond amazing as he physically transformed himself into the brilliant astrophysicist battling a debilitating disease. I found myself at times writhing in my seat with sympathy pains for what I saw Eddie doing on screen. The director allowed the story to flow smoothly whether the scenes were of a scientific or romantic nature; I always felt I was engaged with the characters on screen. If there is fault to be found I felt it was the script. It seemed as if some events were being treated quickly. I would have liked to have seen more story and emotion to them. The satisfying feeling I was experiencing overshadowed this complaint. What an example to see how one man did not let his physical limitations hold his mind back from growing and exploring.

 

3 1/4 stars

%d bloggers like this: