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Flash Movie Review: American Assassin

I DID NOT think my question was that unusual or demanded too much from the sales clerk. If you could have seen their face you would have thought I had just asked something outrageous or personal. All I wanted to know was if the shirt’s material tended to shrink. Besides the “dirty” look and the condescending way they answered me, they did not even bother to look at me in the face. I wanted to tell them if they were that miserable at their job, maybe they should consider changing careers. Now in the past I would have taken that response personally and snapped back something nasty to say to them. To tell you the truth I took most things personally back then.      DUE TO THE events I experienced in my earlier days I was wary of most people. My mind would quickly go into attack mode whenever I had an exchange of some kind with a stranger. They could have been a volunteer soliciting signatures or a lost tourist, it did not matter; I would be distrustful of the individual until I saw or could ascertain they were not going to hurt me in some way. I am not exactly sure when I started softening my attitude and not taking things personally, but I think it was during a time I was being fixed up on several blind dates. It did not take me long into the conversation to realize whether the person was interested in me or not. Granted some people showed their disinterest easier than others; but even the ones that kept up a good facade, did not cause me to react negatively. I realized that everyone has likes and dislikes, trigger points that set them off and none of it should be looked at as a good or bad thing. Their qualifications or agenda was not a personal attack on me; I just did not fit into what they were looking for. In a way one could say it was just business.      AFTER SURVIVING A terrorist attack while on vacation Mitch Rapp, played by Dylan O’Brien (The Maze Runner franchise, Teen Wolf-TV), could not think of anything else after that date but to hunt down the terrorists. It was something the CIA was doing also. This action thriller also starred Michael Keaton (The Founder, Spider-Man: Homecoming) as Stan Hurley, Sanaa Lathan (Out of Time, The Best Man Holiday) as Irene Kennedy, Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Friday Night Lights-TV) as Ghost and Shiva Negar (The Art of More-TV, My Babysitter’s a Vampire-TV) as Annika. The highlight of this film was Michael Keaton; he was the most believable out of the cast. I do not know if Dylan was miscast but he did not have much range with his acting and I am afraid to say did not have the physical presence to pull off his character. With decent fight and action scenes the script could not carry the story; there were several situations that did not ring true for me. In addition the story was not only predictable but the premise for it was cheesy and weak in my opinion. A couple of therapy sessions prior to developing this film would have been money well spent.

 

2 stars

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: Jason Bourne

It was time; the house he grew up in was standing empty. He had moved up a level and now was part of the older generation within the family. His childhood home sat on a quiet street, though back then it was not the case. The house was home base for all of his friends to come over and hang out. With a jungle gym and swings, there was always something to do on a lazy summer day. But now as he walked up the front stairs there was only the echo of memories from his youth. Once inside the house he saw some of the same furnishings that were part of his childhood. There was the old wooden rocking chair where his mother would rock him to sleep in her lap. The paintings on the wall, which were used by him to create stories to amuse his parents, now hung crookedly as if they were exhausted from all the years they had been hanging up by only nails in the wall. Anything he wanted in the house he had already received from his parents while they were alive; he was there now to make the house presentable for sale. On each visit he focused on one room and today’s visit meant he was going to work in the attic. After passing through a series of dusty cobwebs he found the light switch to add extra light to the light coming in from the muted windows. It was just before lunchtime, while going through a pile of files; he found a document he had never seen in his entire life. It was a birth certificate for a male baby born on the same date of his birth, but the baby had a different name. He sat directly down on the floor, shocked by the document in his hands; he had a twin brother. News of this kind has a way of altering one’s perceptions about their life; look what it did to the main character in this action thriller.   AFTER being off the grid for so long CIA special agent Jason Bourne, played by Matt Damon (The Martian, The Departed), had to have a good reason to resurface and make his presence known. This sequel’s forte was the action scenes; they were fast and intense. With Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman, Lincoln) as CIA director Robert Dewey, Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, A Royal Affair) as Heather Lee and Vince Cassel (Black Swan, Irreversible) as the Asset; the acting from Tommy and Alicia stood out for me. Credit however has to be given to an older Matt for pulling off his character again after all this time. I thought the idea for the story was interesting and would have provided suspenseful entertainment. However, the script was not strong enough to support the story. The movie was more like a series of chase scenes broken up by a series of flashbacks. In addition, I found some scenes lacked enough information to make sense out of them. Though I did not remember details about the previous films I do not think it contributed to my feelings about this picture.

 

2 ¼ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Central Intelligence

From acts of kindness heroes are born. Some heroes may reach mythical proportions in the minds of the recipients. For me it was that classmate in kindergarten who taught me, the only left-handed student in class, how to properly cut paper with a pair of scissors. For the rest of my elementary school years that student could do no wrong in my eyes. In turn, it was not until years after high school I discovered a kindness I showed a fellow student had an effect on them. I know from personal experience when the act of kindness fights its way through the terror of the moment it can be monumental. It was during a P.E. class and the boys were changing in the locker room. There was this one boy who was a target for a group of bullies. I do not know if it was because he was short, quiet or did poorly in sports; but he got picked on a lot. One day one of the bullies decided to wait for the exact moment when this student was undressed before pouncing on him. The bully and his sidekicks came up from behind, pinning the boy’s arms back as they started dragging him away from his clothes hanging in the locker. One of the sidekicks ran ahead and opened a window as wide as it would go. The three hoisted the boy who was screaming and kicking up onto the window sill then pushed him out, only holding him by the arms. Hanging out the window without any clothes on, the frantic boy did not know some students had run to get the coach to come down into the locker room. Those students were not thinking about becoming heroes.   YEARS after high school Calvin Joyner, played by Kevin Hart (The Wedding Ringer, Get Hard), received a Facebook friend request. It came from someone who had fond memories of Calvin when he was a student in high school. Calvin on the other hand had only one memory about this individual. This comedic crime film threw me for a loop due to one of its scenes; you will understand what I mean after seeing the film. I had to quickly regroup myself to focus on the movie. As some of you know I am sensitive whenever a bully is part of the story. The casting of Dwayne Johnson (San Andreas, Pain & Gain) as Bob Stone in this picture was a perfect choice. Besides his affable nature I have to tell you I was impressed with his comedic skills. Kevin was yet again the same type of character he has played in his past movies; but here I felt Dwayne outshined him. Rounding out the main cast was Danielle Nicolet (All-Stars, Third Rock from the Sun-TV) as Maggie and Amy Ryan (Escape Plan, Gone Baby Gone) as Pamela Harris. There were times where I laughed out loud; I enjoyed the make-up of the story more than its execution. I thought the script was simple and tailored for Kevin and Dwayne to the point that the writers expected the two actors would create the funny moments. The easy to follow story did not keep me interested; it was Bob Stone’s transformation from high school to adult life. Heroes certainly come in all sizes.

 

2 2/3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Sicario

As part of my daily vitamin regiment I used to take a supplement that caused an unusual reaction in me. I would get these intense, what I would call, hot flashes that would change my skin color to red; I mean a deep bright red. This would happen spontaneously throughout the day. One time my boss walked by and started to panic when they saw me sitting at my desk with my face and ears crimson red. I had to explain I was fine and it would pass as soon as I gulped down copious amounts of water. That supplement was the reason I started to always keep a bottle of water with me whenever I was out and about. One of the few places this caused a problem believe it or not was at this one movie theater near my house. They would confiscate any food or liquids carried inside by the patrons. I understood what they were doing; they wanted people to use the concession stands because let us face it that is where the movie theaters make their money. Because I never knew when I would get a rush of heat across my body, I did not want to have to leave my seat during the movie to go get some water. So I would bring in my own bottle of water and carry it beneath my jacket, underneath my arm. I know I was breaking their rules but the idea of missing out on parts of a film was something I could not handle. In my mind bending the rules led me to a better review.    VOLUNTEERING for a special task force led by government agent Matt Graver, played by Josh Brolin (Everest, Men in Black 3); FBI agent Kate Macor, played by Emily Blunt (Looper, The Young Victoria), found herself involved in a drug war where the rules were not always followed. This film festival nominated crime drama had a superior cast that also included Benicio Del Toro (Traffic, The Usual Suspects) as Alejandro and Victor Garber (Titanic, Milk) as Dave Jennings. First I must warn you there were several scenes of intense bloody violence. The taut story kept the viewers in a constant state of suspense; the director did an excellent job keeping the scenes tight while bringing the life out of the actors. I caught myself several times holding my breath in anticipation of what was to come. Though there have been other films about the drug war between the United States and Mexico, I found this one to be a raw realistic story that lingered with me even after the movie was over. If the film studio had to bend a few rules to get this action film made then I firmly believe it was worth it because this picture kept you on the edge of your seat. Intense violent scenes with blood in this film.

 

3 1/2 stars 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Spy

It sometimes starts with a kind word or gesture that plants a seed inside of you. This seed only needs your hopes and desires for it to flourish into a full emotional relationship that is only in your mind. You take their considerate manners as a sign that there could be something forming between the two of you. Some of the things they say can be taken two ways; you always assume the more romantic version. I have had my share of these types of situations; where you are trying to get a read on the other person, trying to figure out if what you are feeling is just as real for them. Maybe it is the fear of rejection that makes us go slow, where we drop subtle hints to see if they take the bait, so to speak. I recently had a conversation with a friend about this very thing. They asked me why I thought this particular person I was attracted to was not interested in me. I explained how I suggested getting together with them on Memorial Day but they already had previous plans. If they were interested, I explained to my friend, they would have made an alternative suggestion to me by now. So for the moment I sit in my fantasy world just like the character Susan in this movie.    RUNNING the logistics for her partner Bradley Fine, played by Jude Law (Black Sea, Anna Karenina); CIA analyst Susan Cooper, played by Melissa McCarthy (St. Vincent, The Heat), would do anything for him because she felt they made the perfect team. It was a team Susan wanted to see expand outside of the office. When the CIA’s field agents’ identities were compromised, Susan agreed to leave her office and go undercover to save the mission. The first thing I want to say is I have not been a fan of Melissa’s recent films except St. Vincent. The reason for this is because I found the stories were set up to get laughs by humiliating a large person; if the character was thin there would have been no laughs and I find this offensive. So now that I have said my piece, this was Melissa’s best role to date. Her comedic timing was perfection and I so appreciated the writer giving this character room for Melissa to go with it. The whole cast, including Rose Byrne (Neighbors, Adult Beginners) as Rayna Boyanov and Jason Statham (Furious Seven, The Transporter franchise), were outstanding in this action comedy spoof of past spy films. I laughed out loud more than once, admiring writer and director Paul Feig’s (Bridesmaids, The Heat) wonderful broad strokes for the fun action scenes. This crime picture was the real thing and I loved it. There was strong language used and there was a brief extra scene at the end of the credits.

 

3 1/4 stars

 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Interview

The sign in the window that said, “Lost Our Lease” Sale, was what caught your eye. It was just enough of a catalyst to drive you straight through the store’s double doors. I know because I have had the same thing happen to me. The assumption is the prices have all been marked way down to move the products out of the store, lowering the moving costs for the retail establishment’s relocation. If you are like me, you wind up buying stuff just because it is a perceived bargain. Who knew you were peeling potatoes the wrong way all these years; you now had this contraption where the potato would be placed on a skewer and you would turn a handle to make the potato twirl around, while a fine thin blade sliced the peel off the potato. It really did not do a better job than your old handheld potato peeler, but now you had more things to clean up. What did upset you was discovering the store never closed; it signed a new long term lease. So for all the hype there was nothing really satisfying to show for it.    THIS is how I felt after running like a crazy person to go see this “controversial” comedy. Let me start by saying Sony Pictures got the largest holiday gift they could have ever gotten–free publicity. With newscasters talking about the cyber-hacking of Sony Pictures, the online threats if this movie was released, the pulling of the film then the smaller release of it; there was news about this picture every single day. If none of this had taken place this movie would have, in my opinion, had a decent opening before fading into the background. Seth Rogen (This is the End, Pineapple Express) played television producer Aaron Rapaport for talk show host Dave Skylark, played by James Franco (Howl, 127 Hours). Discovering North Korean President Kim Jong-un, played by Randall Park (Larry Crowne, Neighbors), was a big fan lead the 2 men to land an exclusive interview with the president. However, the CIA had other plans for them. I honestly do not understand how of all things this film’s story became the biggest focus regarding the hacking of Sony. It turned out the movie trailer showed the highlights because I found most of the humor to be crude and repetitive. The story was a crazy idea that lent itself to becoming a fun satire; there were a couple of parts where I chuckled. Overall this action film was no big deal. I have seen harsher satirical treatments done of Kim Jong-un on television. Without a doubt this whole episode was a marketer’s dream; it almost makes one wonder if the hackers were getting a kickback for all the free publicity.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Kill the Messenger

Though pretty much everyone wants to be told the truth, not everyone wants to hear it. When asking someone what they think of your new item of clothing, who really wants to hear that it looks ugly or unflattering on you? I realize there may be times where it would serve no useful purpose to tell someone the truth, such as an elderly parent who is in the throws of dementia that one of their children had died. Similarly, a young child at the center of their parents’ bitter divorce does not need to hear all the sordid details about their mother or father, I would think. My friends tell me I am brutally honest to a fault. I am aware what I say can initially seem hurtful; but I expect the same honesty in return. I cannot tell you how many dates I have had where I asked if they would like to get together again and was told yes. For me it is more hurtful when they never return my follow up calls; I would rather be told right at the start that they are not interested. What is the big deal to say no thank you? I would not take it personally since they do not even know me; however, I realize there are some who feel uncomfortable expressing their true feelings.    TRUTH did not come about easily in this dramatic crime film based on a true story. Jeremy Renner (The Avengers, The Hurt Locker) played investigative news reporter Gary Webb, who stumbled onto a story that would affect the standing of the United States Government on a global scale. I vaguely remember parts of this story since there was another noteworthy event taking place around the same time as this one which involved drugs for guns. Along with Jeremy the entire cast which included Rosemarie DeWitt (Men, Women & Children, The Watch) as Gary’s wife Sue, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Die Hard franchise) as Anna Simons and Oliver Platt (Love & Other Drugs, 2012) as Jerry Ceppos, were all outstanding in their roles. The tightly woven scenes produced a continuous flow of suspense that kept me riveted in my seat. I especially enjoyed the insertion of actual film clips into the scenes as the director kept up a steady pace with the filming. There were only a couple of parts that felt slow to me; however, I understood the reasoning since the story was biographical. In fact, it added an extra level of poignancy to this powerful film and that is the truth.

 

3 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

I am so grateful I stopped using my charge card after the November Black Friday hacking scandal came to light. You see I used my card at that retailer over the weekend it was discovered and was concerned my account information got stolen. This past Saturday I received a phone call from the charge card company because they were detecting a suspicious transaction taking place on my account number. Someone in Plano, Texas was attempting to buy $41.28 worth of items at a grocery store, using an actual charge card with my number on it, at the checkout cash register. After telling the representative on the phone that I had the card in my possession here at home; she denied the purchase and closed the account, telling me a new account number and charge card would be issued and sent to me immediately. The reason I am mentioning it is because this happened just before I left to see this action thriller. The story involved electronic sabotage. Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, Unstoppable) played Jack Ryan. After an injury ended his military career, Jack caught the attention of Thomas Harper, played by Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves, Waterworld), who believed Jack’s skills would help the CIA foil a possible terrorist act against the United States. Possibly due to not having read the Tom Clancy books with Jack Ryan and my hacking episode, I enjoyed this action mystery film more than I though I would. Sure I still thought of Captain Kirk when Chris was on screen, but I thought his action scenes were well choreographed and his acting was good enough for the role. I thought Kevin did a fine job playing an older no-nonsense character. Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina, King Arthur) who played Doctor Cathy Muller was adequate, but the character felt more like it was there just to add a love interest into the story. As for Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn, Hamlet) who directed and starred as Viktor Cherevin in this movie, his direction and pacing was tight, keeping the story moving forward; I never felt a dull moment. However, his character was confusing to me because I did not quite understand his motives, nor thought he was intense enough. There were a couple of “you have to be kidding me” scenes but they played into the action scenes. If they make a sequel I probably would go see it. I just would not use my charge card to pay for it. There were a few scenes that had violence and blood.

 

2 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Fair Game

I do not know what you would call it exactly, but there is a certain freedom in being able to say anything I want when reviewing a movie. All I am doing is expressing my opinions and feelings, the same as any other reviewer. No matter what I write, I know there will be no retaliation from the movie studio. It would never occur to me that someone associated with a movie that I rated would go after me or a member of my family. I am fortunate to live in a country that gives its people the right to speak their mind. I have to tell you though, after seeing this film I am not that sure anymore. It was one thing to be familiar with the story when it actually was in the news; but it was another to watch the story unfold on film. In the capable hands of director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith), this political thriller was frightening to me. Using each of their books as a basis; Doug created a taut suspenseful film about CIA operative Valerie Plame, played by Naomi Watts (The Impossible, J. Edgar) and her American diplomat husband Joe Wilson, played by Sean Penn (Gangster Squad, Milk). After Joe wrote a disparaging article, critical of the current political administration, government officials decided to expose Valerie’s cover. Naomi and Sean were so good in their roles and in their relationship to each other; I felt they were channeling the real individuals. By showing the couple’s home life with their children, it only added more intensity to the horror of their situation. After watching this movie I was left thinking about what life would be like if no one was allowed to speak their mind. We would be left with what George Orwell told us about, a world ruled by Big Brother.

 

3 1/4 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Argo

I could not wait to post this review, pushing aside what I was working on already. After seeing this film last night, I am happy to report the hype you have heard is all true. Hollywood can confidently welcome into her arms a new generation of filmmakers in the form of Ben Affleck (The Town, Hollywoodland). They say the 3rd time is the charm and that is so true here with Ben’s 3rd outing as director of this movie based on a true story. Ben has shown his true talent is his amazing directing skills. A critical time in history, the story was set during the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis. Six Americans escaped from the American embassy as it was overrun by revolutionaries, finding refuge in the Canadian Ambassador’s residence. It would be only a matter of time before they would be found. Ben Affleck played CIA specialist Tony Mendez who devised an outrageous plan for what most believed was a no win situation. Pretending to be part of a Canadian film crew, he would fly into Iran to scout out film locations then fly the 6 Americans out as part of his crew. To accomplish this never before done rescue operation Tony would need to set up a fake film production company. He turned to film producer Lester Siegel, played by Alan Arkin (Get Smart, Little Miss Sunshine), and special effects expert John Chambers, played by John Goodman (The Big Lebowski, Roseanne-TV), to set up a fake film production company. The pacing of the story was well thought out, skillfully using Alan and John for comic relief as the tension rose to a crescendo. I loved the graininess to the film that added an authenticity to the period being shown. Here is the bottom line: this movie did everything right to give the viewer what I felt was a flawless experience. Along with prime acting, including Bryan Cranston (Drive, Breaking Bad-TV) as Tony’s boss Jack O’Donnell, the story was told brilliantly. Hollywood, the CIA, world governments and real people all expertly handled and meticulously placed in the gifted hands of Ben Affleck. C’mon Oscar nominations, this movie is waiting for you.

4 stars 

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