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Flash Movie Review: Licorice Pizza

I WAS SURE I WAS ON my way to becoming a tycoon or at least thought of as being cool. There was no one I knew in my elementary school who was starting a business, but I was doing it. I do not remember how the idea came to me unless I considered the time spent selling candy and lemonade on the street corner, in front of my apartment building. My stand was a success; candy being the number one seller. What I used to do was set up the stand, a folding card table, early in the afternoon. I had two pitchers of lemonade and an assortment of candy pieces and bars. I would buy a bag of hard, fruit flavored candy that was individually wrapped, pour them into a bowl and sell each piece for a nickel. Right there, I was making a nice profit. When I was close to running out, I would have a friend of mine go to the store to buy another bag of hard candy and candy bars, which I priced a little more than the regular price. We would only buy the bars that were on sale; that is how I was able to make a profit on them.      HAVING GOTTEN A TASTE OF SUCCESS from my lemonade stand, gave me the confidence to start selling school supplies to my fellow classmates. I had a relative who was a manufacturer’s representative to a variety of companies that made school supplies. Their garage was completely shelved and fully stocked with all kinds of school items. Every new school year my cousins and I would go over and go “shopping” through the garage to get our school supplies. I must have asked my relative if I could take extra items, but I do not remember. There was no way I would have just taken them without permission; so, maybe I told him I wanted extra for friends? With my schoolbag loaded, I started asking classmates if they wanted to buy colored markers, erasers, pencil sharpeners and other assorted things. When students saw the variety of different colored markers and crayons, I sold out of everything in two days. I thought for sure I was on my way to becoming a great businessman. The added benefit to me was the fact students were now seeking me out to see what I had available. In my brain, I took this to mean I was now “popular.” Due to my history, I felt a connection at first with the main character in this dramatic, comedy romance.      HE WAS THE ULTIMATE PROMOTER OF himself. So, when student Gary Valentine, played by newcomer Cooper Hoffman, saw the school’s photographer’s helper he was convinced she would fall in love with him. With newcomer Alana Haim as Alana Kane, Sean Penn (Flag Day, Milk) as Jack Holden, Tom Waits (Seven Psychopaths, Short Cuts) as Rex Blau and newcomer Will Angarola as Kirk; this film festival winner and Oscar nominee was a disappointment. I thought Alana did a decent job for a newcomer and the established actors were good; but it did not matter because I thought the script was littered with distractions. The only actor that stood out for me was Bradley Cooper. There were scenes that fell flat for me because they were hard to believe in. Despite this movie being tagged as a comedy, I did not find anything funny. Sure, there were a couple of precarious predicament scenes, but what it came down to for me was the actors seemed too young for their roles outside of the school scenes. I periodically lost interest, though I enjoyed the soundtrack. I also appreciated the story line of first love and of the would-be actor trying to get ahead; but things did not comfortably fit well for me in the end. With its Oscar nominations, I almost felt as if I was being hustled as I watched this picture.

2 ½ stars  

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Flash Movie Review: Nightmare Alley

I HAD BEEN LOOKING FOR A small bookcase to fill a space in my living room. Something around 5 feet high is all I could fit into the place I had for it. Months went by without any luck; the contents I wanted to put into the case were sitting in a large box in the basement, collecting dust. One day, I was looking through a catalog I had received in the mail. You know how it is, buy one thing online and your mailing information gets sold to anyone who is looking to sell you something. So, this catalog had a variety of home décor items, T-shirts, jewelry and such listed in its pages. I am sure most people would have just tossed the catalog in the recycling bin, but I have this quirk that I must thumb through it, in case there is something there that I did not know I needed. Lo and behold, I saw on one of this catalog’s pages the bookcase I was looking for; just the right size and in a style that would fit perfectly in my home. I quickly jumped online and ordered the item to be delivered to me. After months of searching who would have thought I would have found what I believed to be the perfect bookcase in some random catalog I had never seen before.      THE PACKAGE WAS SITTING ON MY stoop when I arrived home from work. I was excited as I carried it into the house. Putting my work stuff away, I opened the package, taking the pieces out and lining them up on the floor. The first thing I noticed was the size of the shelves; they looked much wider in the catalog photo. I would have to rethink the placement of the items I wanted to put onto the shelves, I guess. Getting a couple of tools, I started the process of building the bookcase. The outside walls were easy to put together; however, when it came time to insert the shelf pegs inside, some of the holes were not drilled all the way. My patience was being tested. I wound up taking a small knife to open the holes, careful not to make them too big where the peg would not stay stationary. What a pain! This process took way more time than I had planned. Finally done, I was able to place the shelves inside. Next was screwing on the French glass doors. It was easy to do, but again I became super annoyed when the doors had a gap separating them when closed. After getting my expectations and excitement boosted by the photo, this bookcase looked so much smaller. It was such a letdown. I felt the same way after being excited to see this Oscar nominated film.      FINDING HIMSELF AT A TRAVELING CARNIVAL, a down on his luck Stanton Carlisle, played by Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born, American Hustle), finds one act of particular interest. It would lead him to a lucrative career. With Cate Blanchett (Don’t Look Up, Thor: Ragnarok) as Dr. Lilith Ritter, Toni Collette (Dream Horse, Knives Out) as Zeena the Seer, Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate, The Florida Project) as Clem Hoatley and Rooney Mara (Pan, Side Effects) as Molly Cahill; this dramatic, crime thriller was gorgeous to watch. I am referring to the sets, costumes and wonderful acting. Surprisingly, I felt Cate’s performance had a bit of familiarity to it, as if I had witnessed it before. The issue I had with this film was its length and the last part; I did not like them. Way too long and slow in parts, I was disappointed with the ending. Such a shame since I enjoyed watching the cast perform and many of the individual scenes. But put it all together and the script did not provide the impact this story needed. I hear the original version is better and I certainly want to see it. With high expectations, sadly this picture was a letdown for me.

2 ½ stars

Oscar Awards Show

THE DAY OF THE OSCARS TELECAST is supposed to be a day with no stress, conflicts or upsetting news. It is a day of comfort, excitement, being with friends and family or not; a time to sit back and reflect on the past year’s movies. So, when I woke up to an alert on my phone that read “due to inclement weather…” I could rebook my flight home for a different time at no charge my stress level became elevated. Due to scheduling I already was cutting the times close to get home and settled before the awards show. Now with wintery weather, I could get caught in “flight delayed” hell. I did not want to rebook my flight; so, I decided to take my chances with getting on that 1st flight out of town. Even if it meant I had to get up awfully early with only enough time to shove all my clothes tightly into my suitcase, I would get home in time to see the show. Gratefully, the Hollywood powers that be and the alignment of the celebrities’ stars took pity on me and let my flight take off on time to get back home.      WALKING INTO MY HOUSE 10 MINUTES before the awards show started was not planned. I had to leave my suitcase and bags in the hallway, race into the kitchen to only eat whatever I could grab right out of the refrigerator (like a bear scavenging thru an empty house) and sit down in front of the television to see the momentous occasion of the show going without a host. And you know what? I did not miss having a host at all. The hosting job, in my opinion, can only be handled by a certain type of individual. They would need to be quick thinking, funny and be able to have a strong command of the audience. I can only bring a few to mind who could fit that bill. Starting out the show with Queen and Adam Lambert performing was a smart move by the academy. After their missteps of having and not having a most popular film category to moving some awards to commercial time, they needed an attention-grabbing start to the show and they got that with Queen. Following it up with Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler coming out for the first presenter spot was a brilliant move. The academy needed to warm up the audience and get them into the mood and these 3 women knew exactly what it took to make that happen. I felt the rest of the presenters were all safe choices with only a couple of surprises, Melissa McCarthy dressed up in costume and Barbra Streisand. It was great to see Julia Roberts; however, based on her reaction it looked like they sprung the news on her to end the show. It appeared and felt awkward. Instead, they should have had a “surprise guest” come out and say goodbye.      BASED ON MY PREVIOUS POST THAT listed my choices, I was overall okay with the chosen winners. A couple of surprises based on the audience’s reaction, but for the nominations that were given, the academy got most of the choices right. Now for what I felt was the highlight of the show and that was the performance from Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. If ever you wanted to see a master class of acting, then this was the couple to see. Going from nominated actors in the audience to walking up on stage and immediately into “character” for their performance of the song, “Shallow,” was an amazing feat. I understand Bradley was extremely nervous to sing on stage, but I could not see it. They were perfection in their singing and chemistry; nothing more need be said about it. The last thing I wish to mention was the shorter duration of the telecast. It was enough time and I appreciated it immensely. So, with that being said I want to thank all of you for another good year of movie watching and reviews. May your journeys take you to uncharted territories of wonder, surprise, thrills and love as we look for those films that can take us away from our reality and place us into the middle of the movie’s story. Thank you for following and sharing your comments with me; it is deeply appreciated.

Flash Movie Review: The Mule

TO ALL THAT KNEW HER SHE was a successful businesswoman. She had owned through her life a few businesses; there was never an exact number because she was modest. With a good heart and kindness, she believed these two attributes would always set her apart from other business owners. Her companies were never staffed with many people; honestly, maybe a handful at the most. There was one company that operated over state lines, but for the most part her businesses were kept locally. I agree kindness and a good heart are wonderful attributes to have; however, I feel one also must have a head for business. All businesses involve making tough decisions that might not appear to be kind. The question is if you can remain honest and true then you can accentuate your success. In her case, she was too kind. Some of her employees took advantage of it. Oh, who am I kidding; they stole from her. As time went on, though sales remained steady, there was less money coming in then going out for bills. There was a problem here, especially when most of the company’s transactions were done in cash. You see, her employees would write up fake invoices that were lower in prices; so, they could pocket the extra money they officially charged the customer.      A BUSINESS CAN ONLY LAST SO long with losses before it must close its doors. In her case, this pattern of thievery would follow her from business to business. I am sad to say she never learned from her mistakes until it was too late. The method she would use time and time again to try and keep her various companies open would be to tap into her personal savings. This would also include funds that were set aside for retirement purposes. By the time she was close to reaching retirement age she had no funds left. All those years of trying to be successful at her different companies through the years left her penniless in the end. It was a horrible situation and what made matters worse was the fact she did not have the skill to keep accurate records. The result of this was the reason she never won a court case, for those times she even brought an employee to court. Do you want to know what she is doing now? In her advanced years she is cleaning an apartment building to get a discount on her rent, while living on a small government subsidy. The main character in this crime drama chose a different route when he had to close his business.      WITH HIS HOUSE IN FORECLOSURE AND his once thriving horticultural business decimated; the opportunity to make some easy cash was the reason Earl Stone, played by Clint Eastwood (Trouble with the Curve, Million Dollar Baby), decided to be a driver for an unknown company. All he had to do was not ask questions. With Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born, Joy) as Colin Bates, Michael Pena (12 Strong, Ant-Man franchise) as DEA Agent, Taissa Farmiga (The Bling Ring, The Nun) as Ginny and Dianne Wiest (The Birdcage, Rabbit Hole) as Mary; I liked this film more than I had expected. The pacing was steady and Clint, who also directed, created a character that one could easily see him being in real life. The story inspired by a true event was interesting, but I found the script was heavy-handed with its messages. It seemed as if the writers wanted to make sure we knew what we were supposed to be feeling for the scenes. Also, a bit more mystery and tension would have livened up this picture. Though predictable at times, I did not mind watching this film; I just hope I am never put into such a predicament in my “golden” years.

 

2 ½ stars     

Flash Movie Review: A Star is Born

I AM MORE OF A “don’t fix it if it isn’t broken” type of guy. As long as the item is meeting my expectations/needs, then I am fine with it. If you recall in one of my recent reviews I said, “Just because something is new does not make it better.” This is true to me based on the multiple examples I have experienced while buying replacement items. When my refrigerator finally stopped working I had to buy a new one. The salesperson had all these reasons why the newer refrigerators were so much better than mine. I originally asked if mine was fixable which led the salesperson to go into their sales pitch for the newer models. Granted, the ones I looked at were nicer looking, brighter inside and had a variety of shelf configurations I could adjust depending on what I needed to store inside. After I came to the realization that the cost to fix my old fridge would be better spent on buying a new one, I chose one similar to what I had and had it delivered. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with my new refrigerator; but for some reason it does not seem I can fit as much food into it as my old one did.      MY PHILOSOPHY CAN BE EASILY APPLIED to movie remakes. If you look back at the reviews I did of movies that were remakes, you will not find many that were favorable. Just last week the film Little Women I reviewed was an updated version; it was one of the worst remakes I had seen in a long time. For the life of me I could not understand how the studio looked at that remake and thought they made a good picture. It makes me wonder where are the writers who have an original idea for a story? Honestly, I do not fully understand what the reasoning is behind the decision to do a remake of an established movie. Remember, don’t fix it if it isn’t broken; why would a studio want to take a well-known, classic film and do a remake of it? If the bar is already set up high, what are the studio’s chances of having a success? Maybe it is an economic decision, where if the 1st movie was successful then the new one has a built-in fan base. I do not have the answers, but I must tell you everything I just said about remade movies does not apply to this romantic, musical drama.      HAVING BEEN TOLD SHE WAS NEVER good enough Ally, played by Lady Gaga (Machete Kills, American Horror Story-TV), had no reason to believe famous music celebrity Jackson Maine’s, played by Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, Silver Linings Playbook) comments about her. There was only one way to show her. With Sam Elliott (The Hero, I’ll See You in my Dreams) as Bobby, Andrew Dice Clay (Blue Jasmine, Pretty in Pink) as Lorenzo and Anthony Ramos (Mobsters and Men, Patti Cakes) as Ramon; I was stunned with this being Bradley’s 1st stint as a writer and director. His direction was simple and pure which was a beautiful compliment to Lady Gaga’s expressive face. Acting was in top form from everyone, but I do have to say I forgot Bradley was playing Jackson Maine; he was that believable. Doing all the singing live was a brilliant decision because it added a vibrancy to the scenes that truly made them stand out. Now there were a few slow spots for me, but they were just a minor distraction that I did not mind much. This is the 4th time this story has been done in movie form and I believe this not only can stand on its own, but it shines the brightest.

 

3 ½ stars     

Flash Movie Review: War Dogs

How annoying is it when you get a new item and it isn’t what you expected or does not work? When it comes to food products our feelings are usually based on the item’s taste; I understand since I have tried some items touting their new great flavor, only to get a nasty taste in my mouth. This type of stuff I either give away or toss into the garbage. The rules are different when the products are not food based. I may have mentioned I bought a new computer. After the store transferred my old information to the new one, along with adding some new programs, I excitedly brought the computer home and turned it on. Everything about it was great until I left it for a moment. When I came back to continue my work the computer would not wake up from its sleep mode. To say I was annoyed would be putting it mildly. I did get it fixed but it is stuff like this that ticks me off. Just a couple of weeks ago it was reported that a department store would no longer carry their line of Egyptian cotton bed sheets. And do you know why? It turns out the company that was making the sheets for the store was not using Egyptian cotton. Can you believe it? The thing that amazes me is the audacity some of these manufacturers have in thinking they are “pulling the wool” over the eyes of their customers. And who really is affected by these actions? It is the consumers who wind up on the losing end. I know the example I gave here is just one of many that take place around the world.   CHILDHOOD friends Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, played by Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street, True Story) and Miles Teller (Fantastic Four, The Spectacular Now), found themselves taking on the bigger players in the defense field when they landed a $300 million contract from the Pentagon. The question was how were they going to fulfill it? Based on a true story this comedic drama also starred Ana de Armas (Exposed, The Boarding School-TV) as Iz and Bradley Cooper (Burnt, American Snipe) as Henry Girard. Along with all the other actors in this war film, this still was Jonah’s and Miles’ show. Their acting and chemistry was strong, though I felt Jonah was starting to be typecast with this type of character. The steady pacing kept the story going forward and I have to say even while I was watching this picture I still could not believe some of the things that were taking place. I think that is part of the attraction of this film; viewers will sit in disbelief by the outrageousness of some events. This will make up for the script that did not offer much depth to the characters along with having a little weakness towards the end. In spite of these things the story was so startling that I think it would grab the viewer to stay engaged with it.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Joy

We had worked at the same company for several years, just in different departments. They did not see their position as a long-term career because they had something else in mind. Being quite creative, away from the office they went to classes to learn a particular craft that was needed if they wanted to keep their dream moving towards reality. I saw pictures of their work; they showed beautiful images of objects and places that were familiar and easily recognizable. The difference was they created them for consumption by making them with food ingredients. Their dream was to open up a business where they could sell their creations. It took them a few years to master the art of designing everyday objects into edible sweet treats. There were baked chocolate top hats with white chocolate bands and red cherry buttons on the sides besides vanilla cupcakes that looked like a set of major league baseballs. They were as tasty as they looked. After selling these types of baked goods by word of mouth, they took a big step and found an empty storefront to rent. Here they would build shelves, buy coolers and baking equipment so they could open up and sell their wares to the general public. This was their dream; they did not want to grow old and wonder how their life would have turned out if they at least had not followed through on their dream. I believe some people call it, “having no regrets.” This is something I believe in too. I do not want to grow old with wishes I had done things differently. What one needs to achieve this is perseverance.    NOT wanting to wind up like the rest of her family Joy, played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games franchise, X-Men franchise), had an idea. The problem would be getting people to believe in her. This film festival nominated, dramatic comedy was based on a true story. With some of the actors like Robert De Niro (The Intern, The Deer Hunter) as Rudy and Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, Silver LInings Playbook) as Neil Walker having worked together previously, there was an easy flow between the characters. Jennifer was outstanding in the role; actually, I found her to be the number one reason to see this film. Who else I found exceptional was Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet, Death Becomes Her) as Trudy. Sadly the script did not elevate the story or the characters. There were parts of this film that stood out for me, where the acting and action were well done. But then there were segments that dragged down the story. If it was not for Jennifer I would have had a hard time staying with this film. The story was amazing if what was on screen was actually true; Joy was one driven character. For such a person who did what she did, this movie did not sell her story in the best way.

 

2 1/3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Burnt

Between the two of us we had gained and lost enough weight to equal the amount of five adults sitting comfortably in a full-sized sedan automobile. I was having lunch with this old friend of mine who was recently in town for a visit. We both grew up being part of the large sized kids of the neighborhood. As we were waiting for the waitress to return with our food order, we talked about how our feelings had changed about food. Our tastes were always different; where she was attracted to creamy and buttery, soft types of food I was all about the carbs and chocolate. I was not fussy; I could be satisfied with a loaf of bread as well as a box of chocolate chip cookies. What we had in common was our mutual desire to seek out different types of comfort foods. Her favorite was macaroni and cheese and mine was banana bread. Neither of us ever had a desire to eat at a fancy restaurant. I know one of my reasons for not going was because their portions always looked too small based on the pictures I saw in print or on food shows. The two of us discussed how food had lost its importance to us as we got more in touch with our feelings. These days food was looked upon as a fuel source instead of a reward; though each of us admitted we did like to splurge from time to time on a favorite treat. The food looked amazing in this comedic drama, but there were very few things that interested me enough to want to eat them.    OVERCOMING the addictions that brought him and his famous Parisian restaurant down Adam Jones, played by Bradley Cooper (Aloha, The Place Beyond the Pines), was determined to create a Michelin 3 star rated restaurant in London. It would become his new addiction. Because I am not that familiar with high rent food, I was fascinated with the food preparation scenes in this film. If any of it was true then I am stunned how stressful it must be in the kitchens of these types of eating establishments. The cast which also included Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher, American Sniper) as Helene and Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Woman in Gold) as Tony were okay but the script was only half cooked (sorry I could not resist). I did not feel there was much chemistry between the actors, besides not feeling much sympathy towards them. The script was strange since there were a couple of other story lines besides the main one that could have been important if they had been developed properly; however, it would have been too much to cover in one film. There just wasn’t much to enjoy here; I prefer my movies well done.

 

1 3/4 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: American Sniper

There are some individuals who have a natural ability or gift to perform a particular skill. In my old neighborhood there were a couple of boys who in school were the fastest when it came to running. Now there are other people who excel at a particular function but it is only after years that were filled with practice and determination. In some societies children are observed and evaluated to see if they have a certain skill that could be nurtured in them so it will continue to grow. I knew a woman who pushed her daughter for years in the field of dance; taking her to every audition, from one instructor to another as the little girl’s talent continued to expand. This went on over 15 years. However, as the daughter matured her desire lessened to the point where she did not want to do anything that involved dance. Though she had aptitude and skill for dance, her mother did not look at one other essential element: the heart, the desire for it. I know even with myself if my heart is not into what I am doing, I will lose interest quickly. The heart is the fuel for the engine of motivation.    SKILLED with a rifle since a young age Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle), joined the military and became a Navy Seal. His love of country along with his special skills made him a legend in the eyes of his fellow Seals. It did not go unnoticed by the enemy who put a bounty on his head. Directed by Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River), this film festival winner and Oscar nominated action drama was based on a true story. Bradley was amazing in the role, having to pack on 40 pounds of muscle to play Chris. I did not recognize Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher, Casanova) at first who played his wife Taya; she also did a wonderful job of acting. This movie was intense to watch with scenes of violence and bloodshed; especially when the character the Butcher, played by Mido Hamada (Unknown, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), had a hand in it. The story is an incredible one; however, I am not sure the movie was on the same level. I say this because there were times where I had wished there would have been more development to the characters, to try and understand their motives. From what I saw on screen, I felt the characters needed to be more complex. Initially I was not fond of the ending; but having discovered afterwards it was done due to legal reasons, I am not listing it as a major complaint. It was obvious a lot of heart and thought was put into the making of this picture.

 

3 stars

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