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Flash Movie Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

SIGNS were posted across the building and in the parking lot that the grocery store was back open after being remodeled. I had never paid attention to this place since they had very few name brand items on the shelves. The reason I was there now was due to my friends telling me I had to try the place because their prices were on the average much lower than other grocery stores. Once inside I took a shopping cart and started walking down the aisles. Most of the products on the shelves were in disarray which was a turnoff for me. I wound up mainly buying fruits, vegetables, nuts and juice. The prices were lower but I have to tell you I did not think their store brand items were that good compared to the name brand ones. In fact, I thought the sunflower seeds were awful.     RECENTLY introduced into my neighborhood was a new grocery chain from out of state. Their store looked like a palace compared to that food store I tried earlier. Produce was stacked up in separate bins, each one brightened by the spotlights that were hanging down from the rafters. I was curious how they were able to get each apple polished and shiny. They had a bake shop in the store that had a wonderful aroma wafting around it. Loaves of different kinds of breads were loaded into a bank of glass cases. Out on the floor there were tables piled high with large assortments of baked goods. The prices were more than what I was used to so I was hesitant to buy many things; but since I am a bread and dessert lover I did splurge a bit in this area. After finally trying both new grocery stores I have not gone back to them. The first place with cheaper prices was more like a knockoff to my regular place; it had less variety and what they had did not taste as good as the usual stuff I purchase. As for the other store, it was beautiful but their prices were on the high end. I could say the same about this science fiction film; a bland imitation that looked expensive to make.     SPECIES from all over the universe had finally found a way to live in harmony with each other. That was until a dark force invaded their shared homeland. Written and directed by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita), this action adventure movie starred Dane DeHaan (A Cure for Wellness, Lawless) as Major Valerian, Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns, Suicide Squad) as Sergeant Laureline, Clive Owen (Inside Man, King Arthur) as Commander Arun Filitt and Rihanna (Battleship, Bates Motel-TV) as Bubble. What made this film entertaining were the wild visuals; the word “trippy” came to mind. Some of the scenes and characters were quite imaginative. I am not familiar with the book this film was based on, but I was intrigued by the relationship between Valerian and Laureline; though she was more memorable than he. The idea for this story was sound but I thought the script was poorly done. I was amazed that I figured out immediately who was going to be the “bad” guy and how the story was going to end. Where the visuals were exciting, the acting and script were lackluster. There was little to get excited or thrilled by in this picture. It was a shame because it was obvious they spent a lot on the technical stuff but what got created was a light version of Star Trek mixed with Star Wars.

 

2 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Words and Pictures

I have always found it curious how some people read instructions to learn something while others acquire knowledge visually. I fall into the latter category. Though I love to read, when it comes to being taught a new computer program or learn how to use a piece of equipment, I prefer watching either someone else doing it or a video on the equipment’s functions. One of the best examples of these two different ways of understanding is giving directions to someone. There are individuals who require landmarks with their directions, such as a gas station is on the southwest corner where you want to turn. There are others who just want the facts written down like travel east for 2 miles then turn north on Newgard Street. I do not judge one way being better than the other; it is just the way we are wired. However, in this film festival nominated movie two camps were set up for students, those who prefer words and those who would rather have pictures. Set in a prep school, one side was led by English teacher Jack Marcus, played by Clive Owen (King Arthur, The Boys are Back), who was determined to prove words were more important than pictures a/k/a art. Jack would have a fight on his hands with art teacher Dina Delsanto, played by Juliette Binoche (Dan in Real Life, The English Patient), who was a well known artist. Their rivalry would have an affect on the entire school. Clive and Juliette tried their hardest with the script they were given in this comedic drama. I enjoyed watching them throughout the film. Part of the cast also included the competent Valerie Tian (21 Jump Street, Juno) as student Emily and Bruce Davison (X-Men franchise, Harry and the Hendersons) as fellow teacher Walt. What knocked this film down into just being average was the poorly written screenplay. Besides being predictable I found some of the scenes did not work well at all. It really was a shame because one of the positives i found was showing teachers who were not your typical instructors, who had the ability to motivate their students. Looking back at the teachers I had during my school years, the ones that taught differently than the majority were always able to motivate me on a deeper level. I wanted to like this romantic movie more than I did; it had two things I absolutely enjoy, literature and art. When it comes to these two things I do not favor one over the other, but with this film I did not care a lot for either.

 

2 1/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Trust

There are those who want a fairy tale ending where the couple live happily ever after. Some people only care to watch topics of a historical nature. Many individuals want to be taken to a completely different world made up of aliens and fanciful creatures. Others seek out movies that will scare and frighten them. That is the beauty of movies; there is enough variety to fulfill everyone’s needs. Now if I tell you this movie was horrifying, I am willing to bet some of you will immediately think there must be some blood or violence involved in this film. There was no such thing, but this dramatic thriller was creepy and disturbing. I think every parent in particular needs to watch this riveting movie. Clive Owen (The Boys Are Back, Killer Elite) and Catherine Keener (Enough Said, Captain Phillips) played Will and Lynn, the parents of 14 year old daughter Annie, played by Liana Liberato (Trespass, Stuck in Love). The parents’ lives disintegrate when they discovered their daughter’s boyfriend was not a student from her school, but someone she met online. Directed by David Schwimmer (Nothing But the Truth, Friends-TV), I thought he did an admirable job for the most part. There was predictability to the story but the acting won me over. Besides the excellent work by the cast members I mentioned, there were solid performances by Viola Davis (Prisoners, Beautiful Creatures) as Gail Friedman and Jason Clarke (Lawless, The Great Gatsby) as Doug Tate. The flashing of text messages on the screen was distracting for me in the beginning, but I began to like the way it moved the story forward. I was already fearful of the internet, but now I am creeped out even more due to the story in this drama. Considering the topic, I felt both the writers and director created a starkly real portrayal. In a way one could look at this film festival winner as a coming of age story and I would not have an issue with it. I just find it sad that things shown in this film are now part of a young child’s life these days. Whether you want happy endings, different realities or history lessons in your movies; this film can provide these things for you. Just not in the way you would have imagined.

 

3 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Shadow Dancer

It takes but a single second where all senses vault into a heightened state. At the moment you would do anything to protect your loved ones. Too young to go alone, I had taken my niece and nephew to a rock concert. The band was playing in a small venue, where the main floor was one large open space without seats. I directed the two of them to the balcony which formed a narrow lip around the perimeter of the room, where it would be easier to keep an eye on them. During the show my nephew wanted to go downstairs to get closer to the stage. Reluctantly I agreed as long as he was able to remain visible to me. My niece and I saw him wade into the pulsating group of fans. As the music pounded off the walls, a swell of people appeared to swallow him up. Every cell in my body sparked with fear. I had no sense of time passing but suddenly my niece pointed to a spot in the crowd. There was my pale-complected nephew, slowly floating across outstretched hands like a water lilly on a dark rustling pond. When he finally made his way back up to us I could see how much he loved being in the middle of the crowd, making the concert a memorable one for him. Gratefully I did not have to leap off the balcony but I certainly had a taste of what it felt like to have my adrenaline fueled senses ready to do whatever had to be done, to protect my niece and nephew. It was that same type of feeling that made Collette, played by Andrea Roseborough (Disconnect, W. E.), become an informant in this tense drama. During the 1980’s in Northern Ireland; Collette agreed to spy on the IRA for British MI5 agent Mac, played by Clive Owens (Inside Man, Children of Men), for the sake of her child. It was quick to connect to Andrea’s character due to her excellent acting. However, I was disappointed with Clive’s performance; it lacked intensity. Combine that with the dull directing and I was left wishing there had been more scenes filled with tense emotions. There was at least a sense of dread and fear as the story continued to build. By the time things got exciting I realized that is exactly what the movie needed, more thrills. It would have been a better suspense movie about a mother protecting her young.

 

2 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Hemingway & Gellhorn

From two places one could easily find themselves in the middle of a raging battle in a foreign land, to relaxing at a beach resort on a faraway island. All it takes is either reading a book or watching a movie. Sitting in a comfortable spot, a book will take me out of my home and let my imagination conjure up the places I am reading about. In my mind I can add the sounds, the colors and the inflection of people’s voices; there are no limits on what I can create. When I watch a film my eyes are the first to be stimulated. There is nothing I have to add; when a movie is good it will go beyond the limits of the screen it is projected on and engulf me into its story. I love both experiences. The visual stimulation in this dramatized biography was awesome. From the comfort of my sofa, I was transported back to the Spanish Civil War. From there I wound up in Cuba, the United States and on a fishing boat. It was the incredible filming of this story that immersed me in the tumultuous relationship between Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn. Nicole Kidman (Stoker, The Paperboy) as Martha was wonderful. I want to know how her eyes always had my attention in every one of her scenes. Clive Owen (Children of Men, The Boys are Back) was over the top as Ernest, to the point it was buffoonish for me. However, I cut him some slack since Hemingway was a larger than life character. Adding to the capable cast was David Strathairn (Lincoln, The Whistleblower) as John Dos Passos and Tony Shalhoub (Feed the Fish, Monk-TV) as Mikhail Koltsov. Similar to the filming style of Forrest Gump, I thoroughly enjoyed the intermingling of historic footage with current characters. The gentle shifting from black and white to sepia to color in the film was beautifully done. I am sure this movie took major liberties in regards to historical accuracy, facts about Martha and Ernest, along with the other characters in general; but I did not care. This Emmy award winning film was great to watch and I was able to visit different places around the world from my cozy couch. A few scenes with violence, blood and war casualties.

 

3 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: The Boys Are Back

When two people are in a committed relationship, they negotiate and offer compromises for the sharing of responsibilities. They become a team with each person utilizing their best skills. Though I dislike ironing, I gladly will do the laundry. Before I learned how to cook, I always insisted that I clean up and wash the dishes after a meal. Once that rhythm has been established, things worked smoothly in the household. Imagine what it must be like when you lose your significant other. And if there is a child, it must be overwhelming to have all the responsibilities on your shoulders. When I first received this DVD I was surprised with the casting of Clive Owen (Children of Men, Shoot ‘Em Up) as the father Joe Warr. I thought of him more as a rogue or sinister type for some reason. He was excellent in this role of dad to Artie and Harry, played by newcomer Nicholas McAnulty and George MacKay (Defiance, Peter Pan), inspired by a true story. Set in Australia with some beautifully filmed scenes, Joe had to figure out how to raise his young son Artie after the death of his wife. Though he earned respect as a sportswriter, when it came to  his home life Joe did not have the skills to make it all work. It seemed easiest to go with the philosophy of saying yes to most things. When Harry who was his son from his first marriage arrived for a visit, Joe would have to face past mistakes to avoid repeating them. This tender movie had some well done parts. The characters were convincing as each actor did an admirable job. There were several themes going through this movie, such as child rearing, abandonment and the effects from having a loss; certainly one could find something to relate to in this narrative.  Parts of the story were stagnant, however; disrupting the otherwise enjoyable viewing experience. Whether one is single, in a relationship, with or without children; there was enough in this film to interest most people. One brief scene with blood.

 

2 2/3 stars — DVD

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