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Flash Movie Review: Ad Astra

THE WORDS THAT NEVER GET SPOKEN to a loved one will remain inside of you always. They become part of your inner dialog, emerging periodically to your consciousness like buried treasure, whenever you think of that person who is no longer in your life. A friend of mine experienced such a thing when his brother one night took off, never to be heard from again. My friend told me there was a big fight between his brother and their parents; he never told me what the argument was about, nor did I ask. In the heat of the fight, the brother said at some point he did not want to be around his parents anymore. I remember my friend telling me he was shocked by that comment. A few days later the brother packed up his clothing and left in the middle of the night. My friend was devastated when he woke up the following morning. There was no note left behind; the brother did not send a message or word to his brother to let him know he was okay. I could see the pain across my friend’s face. I tried to comfort him, suggesting the brother might reach out to him once he arrived at his destination and settled down. He never called.      BESIDES THIS FRIEND I ONLY KNEW a couple of other households that experienced a family loss. With each one, the family member I knew suffered a long grieving period due to not saying goodbye. Because I was at a young age, I could not grasp the scope of such pain. The only way I could relate to it took place several years later when I had experienced breakups from a couple of long-term relationships. Physical death was not a factor, but I still felt the pain of loss. In one relationship I was left without closure; they simply said they could “not do this anymore” and decided to leave. My loss was accentuated by the sudden stoppage of our blended routines. I never realized how prickly routines could be when you try doing them yourself. They are a constant reminder of how your life used to be. Now, I can see if you were the one to end the relationship then those past routines would be the fuel that pushes you to your new life; it makes sense to me. However, not getting the opportunity to have a say in the demise of a relationship can have a profound effect upon one’s psyche. The main character in this dramatic, science fiction mystery can show you.      WITH EARTH EXPERIENCING UNEXPLAINED POWER SURGES, the little evidence that could be found led to a past space mission that ceased communications. The astronaut chosen to investigate the mystery was the son of the captain from the lost mission. With Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, By the Sea) as Roy McBride, Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman, Shock and Awe) as H. Clifford McBride, Ruth Negga (Loving, World War Z) as Helen Lantos, Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games franchise, The Leisure Seeker) as Thomas Pruitt and Kimberly Elisa (Death Wish, The Manchurian Candidate) as Lorraine Deavers; watching this film felt like I was privy to a psychological study. The script and the directing kept a deliberate, methodical slow pace. Because I was involved with psychology in college, I found this movie interesting. However, I am not sure many other viewers would feel the same. Visually the picture was beautiful, and Brad’s performance was outstanding. Overall, I enjoyed learning the story in the movie but there were times I felt it dragged along. I may still be thinking about this film, but I feel complete in having told you what I thought about this outer space, adventure movie.

 

2 ¾ stars

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Flash Movie Review: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

SHE THOUGHT SHE WAS SUGGESTING SOME new concept to me, but I knew better. I was sure if I had been in the room before her she would have turned around and walked out after seeing me. She had done it before. I never said a word to anyone, but I felt she was rejecting me because to her I was old. When I walked into the classroom I saw some familiar faces who were participants in my yoga class; but then, I saw this one member was already seated on the floor on her yoga mat. I announced I was subbing for their instructor. This woman said nothing until after I went over what we would be doing in class that day. As I started to sit on the floor to begin our warmup poses, the woman asked if I could shut the lights off because the other instructor does it. This other instructor, by the way, was much younger than me; she only recently started teaching yoga. And in her class, she would shut the lights off, turn on a couple of battery-operated votive candles and play chimes periodically. When I told her, I would do it towards the end after observing how everyone was moving in class, she made one of those sounds associated with disgust, picked up her mat and walked out.      TECHNICALLY, THIS MEMBER NEVER SAW ME teach class; she had to be rejecting me based on my appearance, it seemed to me. Though I can understand someone having reservations about trying a different instructor, I would not use appearance as a reason to reject a person. I have taught with other instructors who do not stereotypically look like a fitness person. They were not buff and had extra weight on their body; however, they taught a tough class. From my years of teaching fitness, I can put people into two separate groups: those that work out to look good and those who work out to feel good. Some members are predominately focused on their appearance; they are not interested in understanding how exercise is to be used for one’s quality of life. They think the more they sweat the better they will be and that is rarely the case. This group of people would be more likely to reject me simply because I have gray hair. I guess it goes with the territory, where people get judged either all or partially on their looks. Some lines of work can be tougher than others; that is why I understood what the main character was going through in this comedic drama.      DURING THE LATE 60’S, HOLLYWOOD WAS going through changes: changes that would have a deep affect on actor Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio (The Great Gatsby, Titanic) and his stunt double Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt (Fury, Mr. & Mrs. Smith). It did not help that a new, young actress was living next door. With Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, The Legend of Tarzan) as Sharon Tate, Austin Butler (The Dead Don’t Die, The Carrie Diaries-TV) as Tex and Al Pacino (Danny Collins, Dick Tracy) as Marvin Schwarzs; this film took a while to kick in for me. Clocking in at 2 hours and 39 minutes, there was nothing one could say negative about the acting. Leonardo, Brad and Margot were wonderful through the entire story. I enjoyed seeing the movie making scenes as they were only one aspect of the story. The script had a couple of main stories that slowly blended in together. With multiple cameo roles and a great soundtrack; I loved watching this film and felt time went by quickly once I got into the story. There were a couple of violent bloody scenes and there was a quick extra scene during the credits.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Allied

AFTER seeing and experiencing it with my own eyes, I understand the reasons why one should not make any major changes in one’s life during an upheaval. The big life changers one could experience are divorce/breakup, relocation or job loss. I had a job for some years at a company that went through a downsizing and my position was eliminated. One of the first things I thought I needed to do was put my house up for sale. Luckily a friend talked me out of it. Eventually I did find a new job and was grateful I had listened to my friend.   THERE is a friend of mine who tended to make rash decisions in her life. After being with her boyfriend for several years they broke up; she took it very hard. I made myself available, being her support during the difficult time. Well imagine my shock when she told me in a relative short time she had met someone. I thought maybe this would be a distraction for her to pick herself up and move on; however, within several weeks she comes to tell me she is getting married. Carefully I chose my words to her and asked a few questions about her reasons and such, but nothing deterred her pending nuptials. You might have figured out by now where this story is going. The wedding was lovely, small and intimate with lots of flowers everywhere. But just as flowers have a short lifespan so did this marriage. After 3 or 4 years they got divorced and from the stories she told me I was surprised the relationship did not end sooner. So you see when it comes to big lifetime events, I feel they need to sit out and ripen like a beautiful piece of fruit to yield the strongest taste.   ASSIGNED to a secret mission in North Africa intelligence officer Max Vatan and French resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour, played by Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, World War Z) and Marion Cotilard (The Immigrant, Inception), had to pose as a married couple for the plan to succeed. They did not realize emotions could rise during wartime. This action drama drew me early into its story. With Jared Harris (Lincoln, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) as Frank Heslop, I thought the acting was good; though it became obvious Marion was the best out of the group. The buildup of action was well done by director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future franchise, Flight). As for the sets, scenery and costumes; they were picture perfect, adding a beautiful style to the romantic aspects of the film. Unfortunately by the midway point the story started to fizzle out. I felt the picture needed more intense drama. Part of this I believe fell on Brad and Marion; there was some chemistry between them but I felt for this story they needed to smolder and burn brightly. Together they were more like two candles instead of a blazing fire. As the last half of the movie played out I found my mind started to wander which is never a good sign. I had to think about the rating I would give to this film since I liked the first part better than the second and I never want to make a rash decision.

 

2 ½ 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: Fury

Actions reveal more about a person than their words. There are some individuals who use their words as a way to accentuate the meaning of their actions. Throughout my life I have been reminded over and over that actions speak louder than words. Some people are quick to say things they think someone wants to hear as a way to avoid being an active participant with that person. I have noticed however that actions can quickly bond people together. Spending one’s elementary school years with the same classmates connects them in a special way that can remain for a lifetime. When events are of an extreme nature, they have the power to connect people in such a rapid way that solidifies their relationship on a high level. This makes all of the participants act as one unified force. An easy example of this would be any sports team. Having grown up around veterans from every war since world war II, it is quite apparent they have a unique and special bond that is not found among civilians.    ALLIED forces were making their final push through the European landscape in April 1945. Army sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier, played by Brad Pitt (World War Z, Fight Club), and his tank crew had orders to secure and defend a crucial crossroad against the advancing Nazi troops. If they could not successfully carry out their mission, there was a chance the allied forces would suffer a major defeat in their campaign. This action war film was one of the most intense movies I have sat through in a long time. There will be some of you that will not be able to take the assault on their eyes from the intense violence and blood in some of the scenes. Putting that aside, this drama from writer/director David Ayer (End of Watch, Training Day) was so well done; I found myself holding my breath several times out of anxiousness. Brad and the actors who made up his tank crew, Shia LaBeouf (Transformers franchise, Lawless) as Boyd “Bible” Swan, Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson franchise, 3:10 to Yuma) who was the biggest standout as Norman Ellison, Michael Pena (End of Watch, American Hustle) as Trini “Gordo” Garcia and Jon Bernthal (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Ghost) as Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis were all so good that I totally took them to be soldiers. If there was any fault to this film I felt some of the violence was overdone. Granted I have never been involved with armed conflict but it started to feel excessive, whereas I would have preferred learning more about each solider. That being said, prepare yourself for battle if you are going to see this intense film.

 

3 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Counselor

The word “enough” has a different meaning today than it did when I was growing up. Back then the word meant: as much or as many as required; like when I was asked if I had enough to eat. It related more to a personal level. I have always said if I won the lottery there would be little change in my personal possessions. There would be no multiple car purchases or living in a mansion. One of the benefits I could see would be for me to no longer worry how I was paying for something. That would be a nice aspect I wish to experience someday. These days I find the word “enough” is being used more as a comparison to someone else. For example, they have more than I do, I do not have enough. Greed seems to have taken on a more extreme persona in society today. When the news reports on prominent people getting caught for illegal activity, in their desire to acquire even more wealth, I have to wonder what is wrong that they cannot be satisfied with what they have already. An extreme example of this is the premise for this dramatic crime film. Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave, A Dangerous Method) played a wealthy counselor who decided to acquire more wealth via drug trafficking. When the deal did not go as planned, the counselor learned there were consequences to the decisions he made. Based on the book by Cormac McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men), the script was Cormac’s attempt at being a screenwriter. This was a poor decision because the script was horrendous. I thought the dialog was bizarre while multiple scenes made no sense. Even with a cast that included Javier Barden (Skyfall, No Country for Old Men) as Reiner, Penelope Cruz (To Rome With Love, Volver) as Laura and Cameron Diaz (Bad Teacher, My Sister’s Keeper) as Malkina; there was no way they could save this film from its bloody boredom. I found it interesting that a film about greed may have been green lighted by individuals who wanted to score again, on par with the fortunes reaped from their previous film No Country for Old Men. It was a greedy ploy that did not pay off. There were scenes with blood and violence.

 

1 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: World War Z

Evolution may not be working in our favor after all. So many times I have heard, the only thing that will still be around centuries from now will be insects–cockroaches in particular. With an increased threat coming from newly discovered super bacteria and aggressive diseases, one has to wonder how safe mankind will be on this planet. I have already taken precautions by not letting anyone use my pen or telephone and I avoid all salad bars and buffets. Now according to this movie there is an even bigger threat to all of us. In one of the better suspenseful openings I have seen in an action movie, I was swept up into the drama of this story. Brad Pitt (Killing Them Softly, Moneyball) played United Nations investigator Gerry Lane. About to take a road trip with his wife Karin, played by Mirelle Enos (Gangster Squad, The Killing-TV), and their two children; Gerry would have to abandon them when Assistant Secretary General Thierry Umutoni, played by Fana Mokoena (Hotel Rwanda, Safe House), requested Gerry’s help in tracking down the source of the zombie attack on Philadelphia. Brad was very good playing a stoic, older action figure persona in this adventure film. The other stand out for me was Daniella Kertesz (Loving Anna-TV, Ha-Emet Ha’Eroma-TV) as Segen, the soldier assigned to protect Gerry. In the beginning of the movie, I found the special effects incredible as this constant tidal wave of zombies came across the movie screen. The surprise was how the director kept up the tension and suspense without the need of blood and gore, to scare the audience. Unfortunately, a film cannot sustain itself without a solid story and here was the wink link. I never really understood what Gerry had done for the United Nations that led him to be their “go to” man. The world aspect of this story was great, but there was no depth; it started to become one chase scene after another, after another. I heard the book was quite different then this movie. Also, the ending had to be re-written and reshot. It appeared as a lead-in for a sequel. The use of scientific logic in this film was a brilliant idea…and a scary one at the same time. There were a couple of brief scenes with blood.

 

2 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Babel

As more devices are being made available for people to communicate with each other, the world is truly becoming smaller. I make it a point to learn a few words of greetings in different languages, so I can start a conversation with people from different backgrounds. It could be for a new member in one of my classes or recently, a sweet museum employee from Poland who shared her comments about one of my movie reviews. There seems to be more opportunities to connect with people around the world, discovering we are not so dissimilar. In this dramatic movie that spans four countries, the separate stories told have a common thread. Brad Pitt (Burn After Reading, Moneyball) as Richard Jones and his wife Susan, played by Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings franchise, I’m Not There), were vacationing in Morocco as a way to reconnect to each other. Their plans were altered by a single bullet. In a separate story deaf Japanese teenager Chieko Wataya, played by Rinko Kikuchi (The Brothers Bloom, Norwegian Wood), was desperate for an emotional connection to her distant father Yasujiro, played by Koji Yakusho (Shall We Dance, The Eel). With two additional story lines, this movie did a beautiful job in revealing the themes of family and communication. I found each story had enough depth to stand alone as the actors did a touching performance with their characters. For having had such different stories the direction was done extremely well, avoiding the common confusion of multiple stories; I had no problem following them. By the end of this multi Oscar nominated film I was surprised and satisfied. Communication is the base where all relationships are born; listening is the glue that keeps them together. English subtitles when needed and scenes of violence and blood.

 

3 stars –DVD

Flash Movie Review: Killing Them Softly

Here is a film that movie critics can sit down and discuss among themselves into the early hours of dawn. They can debate the merits on using slow motion photography for an execution scene versus the quick kill method or any other such topic. Since I see myself more as a consumer instead of a reviewer; I have to say from where I was sitting no one in the theater cared. We just wanted to be entertained. Judging by the amount of people who kept getting in and out of their seats, I think they were finding better entertainment at the concession stands. Have you ever read a restaurant review that made you immediately go to that place, with bib attached, only to find out the meal was nothing like the review? This is how I felt sitting in the theater. With such a powerful set of actors, I thought I was going to see a rugged intense crime film. Instead I was bored, wondering what kind of black magic was used to turn scenes into lengthy debates that sucked the life out of the actors. In the movie’s favor there were some scenes that shined; but they were few and far between. Based on George V. Higgins’ novel Cogan’s Trade, Brad Pitt (Fight Club, Moneyball) was the enforcer Jackie Cogan, brought in to clean up after a mob controlled gambling place was robbed by a couple of petty thieves. Jackie hired former big time hit man Mickey, played by James Gandolfini (Welcome to the Rileys, The Sopranos-TV), to help him out. If the obscenities were eliminated from James’ lines he would have been speechless. As good as Ray Liotta (Identity, Smokin’ Aces) was as gambling host Markie Trattman, that is how bad Richard Jenkins (The Cabin in the Woods, The Visitor) was as the mob’s spokesman. Sadly, this movie was a waste of good talent and time. Violent scenes with blood.

 

2 stars

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