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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


Flash Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Any story or event becomes enhanced with the addition of an unexpected surprise. If I were to tell you that every 25th person who visited my movie site would get a gift card to a movie theater, I am sure the people who received the cards enjoyed reading my reviews more than the ones who did not get a gift card. If I read a news story about someone doing an extraordinary feat in the middle of a crisis, like a person lifting a heavy piece of machinery that accidentally rolled on top of a child, I feel more invested in the story and will probably remember it for a longer time. There was the time I was at a friend’s wedding reception where his introverted cousin, who used to hang out with us, was called up to give a toast. Instead of giving a speech filled with embarrassing or funny tidbits about the groom, the cousin had secretly made arrangements with the band and performed a couple of my friend’s favorite songs. The big surprise was no one knew the cousin could even sing; he amazed everyone with his incredible voice. So you see, experiencing the unexpected can provide a memorable time.    SURPRISED by the unexpected was used to the maximum to enhance this science fiction adventure film. Chris Pratt (Delivery Man, Moneyball) played Peter Quill, a space traveler who was being hunted down after he stole a mysterious metal artifact. Only the evil Ronan, played by Lee Pace (The Hobbit franchise, Lincoln), had an idea what the metal object contained and he was determined to get it from Peter. This action movie had one of the most unusual opening scenes I had ever seen in the superhero genres; I suggest you do not come in late to the movie. Speaking of the superhero genre, the cast in this fun film consisted of some of the most unlikely characters and I do mean characters one will ever see as superheroes. Besides Peter who preferred to be called Star Lord, there was Zoe Saldana (Star Trek franchise, Columbiana) as Gamora, Dave Bautista (Riddick, The Man with the Iron Fists) as Drax, Vin Diesel (Saving Private Ryan, Boiler Room) who voiced the character Groot and Bradley Cooper (American Hustle, Hit and Run) who voiced Rocket. I loved this movie on so many levels. First was the awesome soundtrack; it pretty much played out like an extra character of the cast. The humor, snide remarks, action and special effects were terrific, all fitting together to create something different from any previous superhero film. There was not one time where I felt bored; every scene provided something to look at, feel or think about. I had no idea this motley crew would help make this picture a total, unexpected surprise for me. There was a brief extra scene after the credits.


3 1/2 stars 

Flash Movie Review: American Hustle

One would think with my love of movies I would see a favorite film more than once. In all honesty it happens very rarely. If there is a movie I just have to own, I will see the film again when I buy the DVD. As far as I can remember, I think there are only 4 movies I have seen twice while they were still playing at the theater. One of those films was The Sting with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. If I were reviewing movies back then I would have given this film a 4 star rating. Everything from the acting to directing to the music was as close to perfect as possible. Now the reason I brought up this film was because this crime film reminded me of The Sting. From writer and director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter) this film festival winning movie was loosely based on the ABSCAM scandal from the 1970’s, which was an FBI sting operation against public corruption. Forty pound heavier Christian Bale (Out of the Furnance, American Psycho) and Amy Adams (Man of Steel, Enchanted) played con artists Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser. Forced into service by ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso, played by Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, The Words), they discovered their lives could be at risk when some dangerous individuals suddenly became involved. The first thing in this Golden Globe nominated movie that reminded me of The Sting was its story. Besides both being about a sting operation, the story had several twists and surprises. The next thing that was similar was the unbelievable, amazing acting. Everyone in this film held their own with their terrific acting skills. One of the youngest actors in the cast gave such an astounding performance that she should get nominated for an Oscar. That actress was Jennifer Lawrence who played Irving’s alcoholic wife Rosalyn Rosenfeld. I thought her young age would be a hinderance in playing this role, but that was not the case. However, Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, North Country) who played Mayor Carmine Polito looked too young for the part. His acting was first rate, but I felt he needed to look older for the part. Everyone in this dramatic film had equal amounts of screen presence which carried me through the couple of parts I found to be slow. With a little more editing the already fantastic dialog would have been ideal for me. The music and sets were perfect for the times. This movie certainly will get a couple of Oscar nominations and is definitely worth seeing. Now that I have seen it I have this urge to see The Sting again.

3 2/3 stars 

Flash Movie Review: The Hangover Part III

Being the designated driver for some of my friends, I have been stuck staying at a nightclub until closing time. When the lights came on I was stunned how the entire place radically changed. When we first arrived at the club there were colored strobe lights sparking everywhere, narrow spotlights searching the dance floor while a cool, low fog circulated around our feet. At the end of the evening the room was flooded with harsh white light, exposing stained dark walls and a floor littered with confetti and crepe paper streamers. Some of it was clumped together on parts of the floor where drinks were spilled. At one of the leather clad booths along the wall, there was a passed out patron. As you can see it was not a pretty picture. The same could be said for this tired film. Consider this movie the last call of the franchise. Phil, Stu and Justin; played by Bradley Cooper (Limitless, Silver Linings Playbook), Ed Helms (Cedar Rapids, The Office-TV) and Justin Bartha (National Treasure franchise, The Rebound); participated in an intervention for Alan, played by Zach Galifianakis (The Campaign, Due Date). On the way to the treatment center; the Wolfpack was ambushed by Marshall, played by John Goodman (Argo, Flight). Holding Doug as hostage; Marshall gave the rest of the gang three days to find Mr. Chow, played by Ken Jeong (Community-TV, Pain & Gain). The story was one dimensional; in other words, it seemed as if they planned the jokes first, then wrote the story around them. The problem was the lack of humor; the jokes were utterly stale. Using Alan’s questionable feelings towards Phil as a continuous joke quickly became old. The character of Mr. Chow derived his humor by being inappropriate for these politically correct times. When the first movie came out it was a novel and fresh idea. I found the film to be dreary and lazy. Consider this film a reminder to never stay beyond last call.


1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Place Beyond the Pines

While the age of 65 is the brass ring the average person strives to reach for retirement, it was not for a majority of my family members. My father worked seven days a week and continued to work beyond retirement age. I had a couple of uncles where one worked every day at a tavern and the other traveled around the country as a manufacturer’s rep. Both worked past the age of 65. The goal was to do whatever was necessary to provide for one’s family. As for myself, I have not given much thought to the idea of retirement. In this powerful drama I was fascinated with the juxtaposition of methods used by two fathers to provide for their families. Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine, Drive) played stunt motorcycle driver Luke, a single man who found out he was the father of a baby boy. Romina, the woman he had the fling with a year ago and now the mother of his child, was played by Eva Mendes (Hitch, We Own the Night). Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, Limitless) played Avery Cross, a police officer who worked in a department riddled with corruption. When Luke chose to rob banks as a way to provide for his son, it would set in motion a series of events that would affect his family and officer Cross’ family for generations. Already being a fan of Ryan’s acting, his part of the story was incredible to watch. From the opening sequence, where we follow Luke as he prepares for his motorcycle stunt, everyone did a great job of acting. Ben Medelsohn (The Dark Knight Rises, Killing Them Softly) as auto repair shop owner Robin was terrific. Because the first part of the film was thrilling for me, Bradley’s story was a slight letdown; but not by much. His acting was excellent as was Ray Liotta (Identity, Smokin’ Aces) as policeman Deluca. With outstanding direction and camera work, the span of years the story covered did not seem long at all. Sometimes choices made cause a ripple effect that last a lifetime. A couple of scenes with violence and blood.


3 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook

There have been so many times I have heard someone say, “Act normal” and I just want to ask them, “What is normal?” Or when someone remarks, “They are the perfect family” I question them on what that exactly means. Where are these requirements written that describe the perfect family? As far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as acting normal or being a perfect family. To me it seems judgmental to compare one person or family to another. For these reasons I found this movie to be exceptional. The family was real to me; I loved all the characters…and I do mean characters. Bradley Cooper (The Words, Limitless) was outstanding as Pat Solatano, the recently released inmate of a state institution. Jobless and homeless, Pat had to move back in with his parents Dolores and Pat Sr., played by Jackie Weaver (Animal Kingdom, The Five-Year Engagement) and Robert De Niro (Being Flynn, Goodfellas). Spending his time thinking of ways he could get back with his wife; Pat was presented with an opportunity after he was introduced to recently widowed Tiffany, brilliantly played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games, Winter’s Bone). I am still processing why I felt these characters were like family to me; each actor was believable with their little neuroses and quirks. Having a well toned, hilarious script was certainly a big plus. Even Chris Tucker (Rush Hour franchise, The Fifth Element) who can be over the top was wonderful playing Pat’s friend Danny. The three performances that stood out for me came from Bradley, Robert and Jennifer. They did some of their best work in this romping good film. After you have spent some time here with the Solatano family, you may have to come up with a whole new definition for the word normal.


3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Hit & Run

In traditional wedding vows there is a part that goes something like, “Do you promise to love and cherish each other, until death do you part?” I still remind a married friend of mine about the time I was walking with him and his wife during a rain storm. A car came barreling down the street, hit a huge puddle of water and my friend quickly ducked behind his wife to avoid the splash. Instead, she got smacked with a wall of water that totally drenched her. I still tease him that their vows must have overlooked the part about protecting one another. In this comedy we find a man so in love with his girlfriend, he was willing to put his life in jeopardy for her. Yul Perkins aka Charlie Bronson, played by Dax Shepard (When in Rome, Baby Mama), was in the witness protection program after testifying against his old friend Alex, played by Bradley Cooper (The Words, The A-Team). When Charlie’s girlfriend Annie Bean, played by Kristen Bell (Big Miracle, Veronica Mars-TV), needed to be in Los Angeles for a job interview, Charlie insisted on driving her. Their road trip turned into a madcap racing adventure as former convict Alex, an ex-boyfriend of Annie’s and U.S. Marshal Randy Anderson, played by Tom Arnold (True Lies, Roseanne-TV), pursued the young couple. Real life couple Kristen and Dax were good together in their roles, quite believable. Tom Arnold easily handled most of the screwball comedy scenes. I gave Dax credit for writing the script besides doing director duty. Several scenes were funny and I liked some of the dialog. My issue with the movie was its similarity to other comedy chase movies. The Bradley Cooper character seemed false to me. While the movie played I cannot say I was totally bored; however, I was not all that invested in the story either. What people do for love and what movie critics do for reviews, is not always a marriage made in heaven.


2 1/3 stars 


Flash Movie Review: The Words

After the layers are peeled away, the one thing that we have left is our word. I place a high value on a person’s word. One of my biggest pet peeves has been someone telling me they will do something, then not following through with it. When a person does not place importance on their word, it bruises my trust in them. There are always consequences to such actions and writer Rory Jansen, played by Bradley Cooper (Limitless, Hit and Run), would eventually find this out. Discovering an unnamed manuscript inside an old briefcase his wife Dora, played by Zoe Saldana (Star Trek, Columbiana), bought him; Rory chose to take the story and copy it word for word. When Dora found and read the magnificent story she thought her husband had written, that was the little push Rory needed to move forward and see if he could get “his” book published. Not only was the book published, but it became a huge bestseller; with its touching story about a young couple falling in love. This dramatic film almost had all the pieces to be an outstanding movie, but sadly did not achieve it. The issue I had with the movie was the running of 3 story lines simultaneously. If the focus was narrowed to Rory’s story line and the book’s tale, that would have been more than enough. The cast’s acting was good, with Jeremy Irons (Dead Ringers, Margin Call) doing a wonderful bit of acting as the Old Man. It really was a shame more time wasn’t spent on editing the story and allowing the characters more depth and back story. I am not sure why, but the movie attracted an elderly crowd; who came prepared with their own bags of candy. At the end of the film I felt let down. Words are what make us human; actions are what defines us.


2 1/2 stars

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