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Flash Movie Review: Hotel Mumbai

INTENSITY HAS BEEN A PART OF ME as long as when I became aware of my shadow. Many people have described me as being intense; or I should say, those who know me well enough know the amount of intensity I can generate in myself. I have always had a strong single mindedness that is like a starving, aggressive dog who will not let go of a found bone. There was a time where I was acutely aware of people around me feeling the heat coming off me when I am intensely, laser focused on one thing. Now you would think there must not be many things that I find intense, but you would be incorrect to assume such a thing. Driving in a violent storm is something that I find to be an intense situation. With the wind jostling the car and rain pelting the windshield relentlessly; I find myself with my shoulders stiff by my ears and my grip turning into a vise around the steering wheel. I used to react in a similar way when I used to ride roller coasters. Now I avoid most of them because I already deal with enough stress and do not want to willingly put more tension on myself.      MORE THAN LIKELY MANY OF YOU have experienced some form of tension in your life. The first thing that comes to mind is a doctor’s office or hospital. I knew a person who would get such a strong reaction every time they went to the dentist that they decided to stop going all together. I am sure this happens more now than it used to, but I quickly become uncomfortable anytime someone is heckling a performer. Sitting in the audience and suddenly some random individual talks back to the artist or yells at them and I immediately tense up. I remember sitting in a smallish type of venue, watching a comedian. At one of their jokes a drunken guy in the audience shouted out a derogatory remark to the performer; I immediately tensed up and started worrying about what would happen next. The reason being, I remembered at a rock concert where someone threw a beer bottle towards the band and they instantly stopped the show and left the stage. I held my breath to see what the comedian would do. He came back with such a classic retort that I still use it to this day; it shut the heckler up. From the experiences I listed I can add something new that made me tense and on the edge of my seat, this film festival winning movie based on a true story.      KNOWN FOR ITS ELEGANCE AND ATTENTION to its guests the Taj Hotel was the focal point for a terrorist group’s message to get out to the world. This dramatic thriller starred Dev Patel (Lion, The Man Who Knew Infinity) as Arjun, Armie Hammer (On the Basis of Sex, Sorry to Bother You) as David, Nazanin Boniadi (Ben-Hur, Homeland-TV) as Zahra, Tilda Cobham-Hervey (One Eyed Girl, The Kettering Incident-TV) as Sally and Alex Pinder (Ocean Girl-TV, Angel Baby) as Butler Jamon. I cannot remember the last time I sat through a movie where I was swept up into a tense state by the action on the screen. The actors were well suited for this story and they delivered in my opinion. I am telling you now this was not an easy movie to sit through because there was violence, bloodshed and terrifying scenes. Honestly, I did not care if everything I was watching was true or not; the fact that the script kept me engaged and kept my eyes riveted to the screen made the experience memorable for me. I suggest you prepare yourself before you see this film and remember to take deep breaths.

 

3 stars  

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Flash Movie Review: Lion

I have seen examples that both agree and disagree with the proverb, “blood is thicker than water.” Using the common definition that family relationships are more important than other types of relationships, I know a family with adult children who focus solely on each other; they hardly have any social activities that involve friendships. Everything they do they do together whether it is going to the health club, the movies, shopping or even carpooling; they only carpool with each other siblings’ children. It is obvious to me that friendships/relationships with people outside of their family are not important to them.   AS another example, I know a couple who each came from a dysfunctional family. For them their friends became their family, becoming careful with the time they spent with any of their blood family members. I see them as 2 individuals who became family to each other, creating a safe and protected environment. Where their focus has been on each other, I have seen couples where one person still has as their main priority a family member such as a mother or brother, instead of their partner. I have always been fascinated with the dynamics between family members by blood or love. Two brothers who look nothing alike, who people think are so different from each other, still have a bond that allows them to communicate without talking out loud. Or how about twins who live far away from each other yet when one feels sick the other can sense it; can anyone explain this phenomenon? I recall an article in the newspaper about an elderly gentleman who traveled overseas for vacation. While leisurely strolling through a town he stopped at a café to order a drink and rest. He happened to be facing the doorway while seated and when a customer walked in a few minutes later, the man was stunned; the customer who walked in looked identical to himself. It turned out they were twins separated at birth. Each one expressed the sense of unexplained loss they had been carrying all these years. There is such a strong bond that remains with some family members.   SEPARATED from his brother 5 year old Saroo, played by newcomer Sunny Pawar, traveled further than the boundaries of India; he wound up in Australia when husband and wife John and Sue Brierley, played by David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Van Helsing) and Nicole Kidman (Secret in their Eyes, Paddington) adopted the young boy. As he grew up he began to understand certain feelings he had inside. This film festival winning movie based on a true story was a wonderful picture watching experience. Along with Dev Patel (The Last Airbender, Slumdog Millionaire) as Saroo Brierley and Rooney Mara (Carol, Side Effects) as Lucy; the acting in this picture was outstanding. This was Dev’s best performance in my opinion. The story was simply incredible and more amazing because it really happened. I found the 1st half of the film with the young Saroo, beautifully acted by Sunny, more intense due to the young child’s plight; the direction of the scenes kept me totally engrossed in the events. Because of that intensity the 2nd half of the movie felt a bit less so, but it still came across with subtle power. This could easily be an Oscar contender that showed the type of bonds we form for a family.

3 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Man Who Knew Infinity

She had seen the advertisement on a social networking site so she felt it must have been true. All she needed to do was pay for shipping charges and she would get a free trial container of wrinkle remover for her face. The lotion arrived on time but a week afterwards another container arrived, followed by yet a 3rd one the next week. Checking her charge card statement when it arrived, she saw she was charged $70.00 for each additional product. With emailing the only option to communicate with the company, she was told everything was correct about the special advertised deal and it was stated as such in the fine print in the advertisement. I only knew about this person’s plight because it was recently on the news after she contacted a television station’s consumer hotline. I can see where things like this can happen because I tried retrieving a coupon for a free meal once that was posted online; all that I got was a bunch of junk emails for weeks. From that experience I never trust any offers online unless I have signed up to a well-known company; I am now prejudiced towards that form of advertising. Due to this it occurs to me that there are other ways we are taught not to believe something we see or hear. I have not only seen but have been the victim of someone’s disbelief in my answer solely based on external factors; in other words my physical appearance. I guess the person could not trust my answer because I did not look like I knew what I was talking about. There was someone I knew who kept having the same thing happen to them all the time because they did not dress in a fashionable way or because their clothing looked too worn. You know what they say about judging a book by its cover, don’t you?   DESPITE what his colleagues at Cambridge thought mathematician G.H. Hardy, played by Jeremy Irons (Beautiful Creatures, Margin Call), felt there was something special about S. Ramanujan, played by Dev Patel (Chappie, Slumdog Millionaire). It did not matter to Professor Hardy that the poor young man was from India. Based on a true story this biographical drama was ripe for an incredible telling of it. With part of the cast including Tobey Jones (Captain America franchise, Infamous) as Littlewood and Malcolm Sinclair (Casino Royale, V for Vendetta) as Professor Cartwright, I thought the acting was extremely good especially from Dev and Jeremy. The story is so amazing I only wished the script would have followed suit by being more precise and intense. I felt there were some characters that needed more screen time to let their story develop properly. Maybe the script was a bit too formulaic and the director did not utilize the actors fully, but my interest in the story was kept for the majority of the time. This movie offered proof that there was good reason to look beyond the surface.

 

2 2/3 stars  

Flash Movie Review: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I felt I was interrupting a prayer service as I stepped into the train car. The majority of the passengers had their heads bowed. They were all looking at their cell phones, though there were some with earbuds dripping out of their ears who stared off into space as if they were witnessing a vision. For whatever reason as I sat amongst them I wondered what the future would be like; would there be mobile apps to take care of all our needs? I have already witnessed the deterioration in our ability to communicate, I just wonder as we grow old will we be tucked away in our own tiny spaces having little contact with the outside world? Though I like my alone time, I find comfort in being part of a community. I may not see some of my neighbors for weeks, but we are well aware of each other’s routines and activities. It may be their car is in a different spot or their dog is out in the backyard; there is an invisible bond that connects all of us. Just this past weekend I was chipping away the melting ice from my walkway and my neighbor came over with an ax. Granted until I recognized him due to the sunlight shining in my eyes, I had a moment of fear spring up.    WITH only one room left to rent in his hotel Sonny Kapoor, played by Dev Patel (Chappie, The Newsroom-TV), had his eye on a second property. It would already be a challenge; but with the added stress from the approval process and his upcoming wedding, Sonny would need a lot of things to go right if he was going to realize his dreams. This sequel saw the original cast like Maggie Smith (Quartet, Harry Potter franchise) as Muriel Donnelly and Judi Dench (Philomena, Skyfall) as Evelyn Greenslade mingling with new cast members such as Richard Gere (Brooklyn’s Finest, Amelia) playing Guy Chambers. I enjoyed seeing the cast again but there were parts of the script that I found unattractive. What I mean is I felt some of the writing came across as cheap and easy, not giving the actors enough to fully develop their characters. Sure there was the same mix of comedy and drama, but I did not find this film as entertaining as the first one. It was as if the writers did not know whether to make the story more like a madcap ensemble comedy piece or go in a more serious vein. I really hoped this would have been a better film because I was fond of the idea to have a group of people coming together as a family of choice, a real sense of community.

 

2 1/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Chappie

Two unrelated occurrences recently happened and were on my mind prior to walking into the movie theater. I had stopped in the men’s department of a retail establishment, store coupon in hand. There were 2 women shopping with their young sons; the boys looked like they were 6 or 7 years old. One boy was walking underneath the clothes racks, playing hide and seek. If he happened to knock a piece of clothing onto the floor he would pick it up and return it to the rack. The other boy was running around; if he stopped at the shelves of folded shirts, he would leave one crumpled on the floor. As he darted under the clothes racks, he left a trail of items strewn everywhere. His mother either did not see or care about what he was doing; I could not tell. I started to wonder what were the 2 boys taught that led them to two different reactions regarding respecting someone else’s property. The other incident that was on my mind had to do with a small news item I had read in the newspaper. An elementary school had a costume day where the students dressed up as their favorite literary character. One eleven year old boy was sent home because he came dressed like Christian Grey from the novel, 50 Shades of Grey. The article made me curious to know how this elementary school student even knew how to dress up like the character. From the time of birth to various stages in their lives children are impressionable.    CREATED by Deon Wilson, played by Dev Patel (The Last Airbender, Slumdog Millionaire), the security robots of the police force were a big success as they kept crime down in the city. However when Deon gave one robot a conscience, Deon’s rival Vincent Moore, played by Hugh Jackman (The Wolverine, The Prestige), decided to take steps to protect his life’s work. This action, science fiction thriller had a thought provoking story. The idea of uploading a program to give a robot the freedom to think for itself was fascinating to me; especially because the transformed robot named Chappie, played by Sharito Copley (District 9, Maleficent), was essentially an impressionable infant. Unfortunately the idea for this story was poorly executed. Except for the wonderful visuals, the story was far-fetched and unbelievable in places. The acting was nothing special but the script did not do it any favors. For such an intriguing concept I was disappointed in this predictable story that felt shallow and boring at times. Along with the memories from the 2 earlier events before seeing Chappie, I still spent time afterwards thinking not only about the possibilities of having a conscious robot but the responsibilities. There were a few brief scenes that showed blood.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Last Airbender

All I could think about while watching this movie was that James Taylor song with the lyrics “I see fire and I see rain.” With the past week being extra hectic, I wanted to chill out with a fantasy film that had loads of special effects. It is the easiest way for me to calm down and space out. When I saw the trailer for this movie I thought it would be the perfect choice for my state of mind. The story was set in a world divided into kingdoms: Air, Earth, Fire and Water. Peace between the kingdoms was kept with the aid of an Avator, a person who was able to control all four elements. But there was a time when the young Avator disappeared and the peace was shattered, allowing the Fire Nation to pursue dominance over the other kingdoms. I want to start out with a positive statement, so let me say the special effects were good. In addition the film had some beautiful shots of scenery. Unfortunately that is the only good thing I can say about this boring mess. Director, writer and producer M. Night Shyamalan (The Village, The Sixth Sense) was the reason this movie was so bad. The writing was dull with cheesy lines one would expect from a 10 year old. His directing was utterly lifeless. The poor younger cast members like Noah Ringer (Cowboys & Aliens) as Aang and Nicola Peltz (Deck the Halls, Harold) as Katara appeared as if they were unsupervised, leaving them bland and emotionless. Even Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) as Prince Zuko could not help this bad movie. I have not read the comic books this film was based on, but I have heard they were good. One could only assume the comic book writers cringed when they saw this clunker. Let us look on the bright side; with a sequel in the works, the bar has been set so low that the next movie has to be better.

 

1 2/3 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Slumdog Millionaire

Along the same lines in my belief that there are no accidents, my thoughts on one’s destiny are evolving. For example, when you go to a different grocery store than the usual one and meet someone that becomes the love of your life; is it simply by accident? A friend of mine vacationing in Florida called me from a restaurant. A man at the next table was leaning back in his chair laughing. He kept tilting back until he toppled over onto the floor; he had died from a massive heart attack. Asking her for a description of the man; it  turned out the man was my uncle. This was how my mother and sisters found out about their baby brother. Coincidences or occurrences have always fascinated me. The magic in this Oscar winning movie came from a series of events that lead the characters on a path to their destiny. Dev Patel (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Last Airbender) played a poor orphan from Mumbai named Jamal Malik. The fact he was a contestant on a game show was amazing enough; however, when it appeared he might actually win, the producers had him arrested for cheating. They could not believe a poor uneducated boy could know the correct answers to the game’s questions. It was during Jamal’s interrogation that we learn how occurrences in his life led him up to this point in time. Director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 127 Hours) did a brilliant job keeping the story interesting by using flashbacks. It was easy to follow the unfolding connections between the characters, though the scene with the boy’s eyes made me look away. Freida Pinto (Immortals, Trishna) was wonderful playing Latika, the little girl who Jamal never forgot. Besides feeding my belief of there being no accidents in life, I understood the message about not judging a book by its cover. A beautiful film that I was meant to see with a universal story that was no accident. Some scenes were spoken in Hindi with English subtitles.

 

3 2/3 stars — DVD 

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