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Flash Movie Review: American Pastoral

ONE could not help thinking that they were the ideal family living the American dream. They lived in the suburbs in a well maintained house that was surrounded by a perfectly manicured lawn. The husband owned a company; the mother did volunteer work and twice a year they and their children would go on a vacation; never to the same place twice. I was friends with their youngest child. As we all grew old they still looked like one big happy family; I knew better. On the outside nothing had changed except for one detail. If you were to meet them now there would be one less child.   INSIDE their house the only signs that there was another child could be found in a few photo albums that were stuffed in some drawers. I never knew what happened but their child was not missing; he did not want to have anything to do with his family. The parents and their other children did not know if he was dead or alive, where he lived or what he did to make a living. It really was heartbreaking to see this though as I said the family always kept up a strong face. My friend had told me a few things that had taken place inside the household. From this I learned never to judge someone based on appearances. As they say you never know what goes on behind closed doors. I have witnessed other incidents with other people where a similar situation took place; things much worse than what I just told you. It truly baffles me on what could have happened to have resulted in such extreme measures. This dramatic crime film is an example of what I mean.   LIFE was going so well for Swede Levov, played by Ewan McGregor (The Impossible, Star Wars franchise); which only made it harder when his daughter Merry, played by Dakota Fanning (Man on Fire, I Am Sam), started acting differently around the house. Based on Philip Roth’s (The Human Stain, Portnoy’s Complaint) novel, this film festival nominated movie also had as part of the cast Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind, Blood Diamond) as Dawn and Peter Riegert (Local Hero, Animal House) as Lou. Set in the 1960s I liked the look of this picture. The film shots were well thought out; this may sound odd, but everything in the scene was well placed. I felt the acting was this film’s strongest suit. I have not enjoyed Dakota’s acting in recent films but I thought she was excellent in this role. If I am not mistaken this was Ewan’s directorial debut and sadly this was the problem I had with the movie. I thought his directing was unpolished; there were times I was bored with the story. It just seemed as if the action was being sucked out of several scenes. The story was interesting but I do not think it translated well into this script because I found parts of it dull and wasteful. Here is the thing though; based on the trailer I thought this was going to be a better film. I need to remind myself not to go into the theater with expectations that are solely based on a movie’s trailer; looks can be deceiving.

 

2 ½ stars      

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Every Secret Thing

No matter how people are labeled, they all fall somewhere on a horizontal line. From doctors to parents to plumbers, each one can find a place among their peers. A saying I am fond of is, “Someone has to graduate at the head of the class and someone has to graduate at the bottom of the class.” What I mean by this is there will always be individuals who are better than others in their profession or group; just as there are good doctors and bad doctors, the same holds true for parents. Now first let me say I am not a parent and I do not mean to judge anyone’s parenting skills. In my little corner of the world I have seen and heard parents doing extraordinary things along with not so extraordinary things. Just walk through a grocery store; you would be surprised how many things you can see a parent doing to their child. I saw a mother take the time to explain to her kid what harm his actions/behavior could cause to the shoppers around him, explaining to him if he continued their behavior they would have to leave the store. There have been other times where I have seen a parent hit their child then yell at them as they nearly lifted them off the ground by the arm before storming out of the store.    WORKING on a criminal case similar to one she had several years ago Detective Nancy Porter, played by Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games franchise, People Like Us), found it interesting that Ronnie Fuller and Alice Manning, played by Dakota Fanning (The Runaways, Man on Fire) and Danielle Macdonald (The East, Trust Me), who were convicted of the previous crime were recently released from prison. Based on best selling author Laura Lippman’s novel, this crime drama had a strong cast of actors. Besides the celebrities I mentioned, there was Diane Lane (Unfaithful, The Perfect Storm) as Helen Manning and Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Beyond the Lights) as Kevin Jones. Everyone did their part well; with Elizabeth, Diane and Danielle being the most memorable to me. I liked the idea of this suspense story being led by a mostly female cast; it provided an interesting take on the detective formula. The story was meant to keep the viewer in suspense with its twists and possibilities; I really wished it had done that for me. Not only did I find the story to be quite predictable, I thought there was a flatness to the drama. For such a story this movie could have used more intensity to keep the viewers guessing. After the movie was over I was disappointed it was not better; I guess there are some writers and directors who are better than others.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Last of Robin Hood

I can only imagine what it must have been like to sit in one of those old movie palaces with the etched terra cotta walls, marble countertops and various sculptures plus murals adorning its grand lobby. Settled into one of the plush velvet covered seats with the wooden armrests that were polished to a high gloss, there had to be an electric energy in the air when this actor was up on the large movie screen. The reason I say this is because I remember seeing his movies on television when I was a little boy. Whether he played a pirate who was secretly conspiring with Queen Elizabeth I to pick off Spanish ships or robbing from the rich to give to the poor; to me he was the ultimate hero. I remember one Halloween I wore a pirate costume but at each house I visited I would tell them I was Errol Flynn (The Sea Hawk, Captain Blood). During his lifetime there was no social media or reporter frenzy like there is today. Scandals may have been reported via word of mouth, but with Errol his outrageousness went beyond any behind the back whispers.    KEVIN Kline (Last Vegas, Wild Wild West) portrayed Errol Flynn in this dramatic biography that focused on the movie star’s last years. The story focused on Errol’s infatuation with a young girl named Beverly Aadland, played by Dakota Fanning (Man on Fire, The Runaways). With a celebrity obsessed mother named Florence, played by Susan Sarandon (Tammy, Thelma & Louise), the young starlet wannabe and older actor would set off a controversy that would rock Hollywood. Since I was not familiar with this story I did ask a couple of people if they remembered this chapter of Errol’s life. They in fact did remember the incident, confirming parts of this film for me. Kevin Kline did an admirable job playing Errol. He may not have had the same suave golden charm of Errol but he was still able to pull it off. As for Dakota I was surprised how much I did not care for her in this role. Her acting was bland and lifeless to me. Compared to Kevin and Susan she stood out as a joke; though I have to say, I did not think Susan was all that great either. For such a character from the golden age of actors, this movie fell flat; I was periodically bored as I would glance at my watch to see if the film was almost over. It is never a good sign if I have to look at my watch during a picture. Such a poorly written script, this film did not put the life into an actor who was larger than life.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Runaways

After trashing Kristen Stewart’s (Twilight franchise) performance in Snow White and the Huntsman, I found it an interesting coincidence that her movie The Runaways came in the mail this past week. Playing rocker Joan Jett, Kristen redeemed herself by doing a better job of acting here than as Snow White. This biopic was about the formation of the all girl band The Runaways. With the help of seedy manager Kim Fowley, played by Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, Revolutionary Road); Cherie Currie, played by Dakota Fanning (Man on Fire, The Secret Life of Bees), was brought in to be the sexy lead vocalist. How many of us can say they saw that musician or band before they became famous? I do not know whether everything in this movie was true; for example, Kim bringing in kids to heckle and throw things at the girls while they performed. Truthfully, it did not matter to me for the story kept my interest. On a sour note, I thought the directing did not serve this movie well. Seeing the abundance of drugs and alcohol that played a part in the girls’ every day life became monotonous for me. Seeing what these pioneers of punk went through, especially with Joan’s determination, I have a new appreciation for their music.

 

2 2/3 stars — DVD

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