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Flash Movie Review: The Front Runner

NO MATTER WHERE ONE PLACES THE “BAR” there is always someone or something to cause it to be raised. Just look at the evolution of television. We started out with the Riccardo’s from I Love Lucy; they were not allowed to sleep in the same bed, despite being married to each other on the show and in real life. The censors would not approve them being filmed in the same bed. From that point in time there were a few television shows that had partial nudity if it was in the context of a documentary or historical event. The show that comes to mind is the mini-series Roots. Things took a bigger change in the 1990s when the TV shows “NYPD Blues” and “Once and Again” had episodes that contained nudity. For some viewers this was a big shock. Let me also add while this evolution was taking place there was another one going on that pertained to language. Scripts started showing up with slang and curse words in the dialog. I can still remember my shock hearing a TV character uttering a curse word; it took me by surprise even though I was a user of the word. Little did any of us know the explosion of nudity and swear words would be amplified upon the arrival of cable television.      HONESTLY, I HAVE NOT GIVEN IT A lot of thought, but I wonder if there might be a connection between this viewing evolution, which by the way has led to reality shows, to blurring the lines between personal and professional lives. The reason why I am bringing it up is from my observations on how people focus their attention on other people’s personal lives. Look at some of the reality shows where people are being filmed 24 hours a day or the dating and swapping partner shows; I have no interest in such things. Two things I learned growing up; first, curse words were just adjectives. Derogatory words about race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality were the “bad” words. Secondly, if no one is being hurt, held against their will or abused; I do not care what they do in their private life. This fascination with people’s personal lives is weird to me. With the aggressiveness of photographers and reporters, there evidently is a market to sell intimate stories about celebrities and such. People judging and making decisions essentially about strangers is a waste of time and money, in my opinion. The reason I have been pondering this is due to today’s biographical drama. As I was watching it, it occurred to me that the events in this film were the beginning of people’s obsession with other people’s personal lives.      APPEARING TO BE RIDING A WAVE OF popularity Senator Gary Hart, played by Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman, Eddie the Eagle), had his eyes set on the White House. A simple photograph would cause a detour in his campaign. This film festival winning movie also starred Vera Farmiga (Boundaries, The Commuter) as Lee Hart, J.K. Simmons (I’m Not Here, The Bachelors) as Bill Dixon, Mark O’Brien (Arrival, Bad Times at the El Royale) as Billy Shore and Molly Ephraim (Cricket, Last Man Standing-TV) as Irene Kelly. Set in the 1980s, what I found the most curious was the idea that Gary’s election campaign was the beginning of tabloid journalism. In fact, it was this aspect of the script I found the most interesting. I did not think the script otherwise was well written; it seemed as if events were broken down into cause and effect without much time spent on learning about the characters. I think a political junkie would enjoy this picture more than the average moviegoer. Maybe it is due to my disinterest in a person’s personal life, but I did not find this film very exciting, sordid details and all.

 

2 stars  

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Flash Movie Review: The Purge: Election Year

Their voice reverberated off the walls of the tunnel, greeting the passengers passing through to the train station. The song they were singing was familiar and their voice was good enough to be noticed by a record producer, if one happened to be walking by. The setup looked ideal with their scratched up guitar dangling by its strap off their shoulder, the bulky bright colored sweater they wore and their right foot tapping to the beat of the song. I thought it all looked like something I had seen in a movie. As I settled into my seat the train car doors slid shut and we started off to the next station. Sitting across the aisle facing me was a young couple; I just knew they had only recently started dating because of the way they were acting. The 2 of them leaned into each other as they would look up from time to time at each other which caused them to smile in a demure way. Again I felt I was watching a movie unfold since there have been so many times where art imitates life and life imitates art. There have been films I have seen where a few years later a news show is reporting on the exact same type of scenario that I saw in the movie. Sadly there have been individuals who watch a film that then becomes the catalyst for them to do something destructive. On the other hand there have been movies that used an actual event to spin a story to reflect back on society. I have been told timing plays a part in whether a story will have relevance to it; if that is the case then the movie studio that brought out this horror sequel must have a lucky star shining down on it. The timing could not have been any better.   WITH the annual Purge close to commencing Senator Charlie Roan, played by Elizabeth Mitchell (Gia, Lost-TV), was convinced her campaign platform for ending the murderous rite would push her to the presidency. First though she would have to survive the Purge. This action film was something I actually was not looking forward to seeing since I was not a fan of the previous installments. Whether it was intentional or not, the fact that this film came out now during the current political landscape was brilliant timing. I found the story part satire, horror with a little drama mixed in. Including the tight direction I found myself getting into the story. Gratefully the script focused more on suspense than the killing of innocent citizens and I did notice the cast was not only diverse but had more of a substantial story for each of them than just relegated to secondary figures. Now I will say the script was somewhat predictable yet I did not mind it as much since the chase scenes kept me interested, besides getting a kick out of the playing off the good guy/bad guy characters. There still was a lot of blood and violence in this film but it did not seem as much as the others. I have to say this story gives a whole new meaning to letting our candidates fight it out.

 

2 ¼ stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Our Brand is Crisis

It seems no sooner do I leave the voting booth that another election campaign revs up its marketing machine. I finally throw away my homework on the candidates (I’m not a political junkie but I do want to know something about the person I am voting for in an election) and I am supposed to startup with a whole new batch? The political landscape has changed so much from what I remember years ago. Facts it seems are no longer important or less important than the amount of money in the candidate’s coffers. If I were ruler for a day I would make election day a national holiday, restrict all advertising to start only 90 days before the election, make all candidates hold at least a dozen town hall meetings across the country and do away with a majority of the super PAC funds that seem to have been set up to sway the candidate to be sympathetic to one particular interest group. What I find most troubling is the use of smear campaigns to discredit an opponent. I can handle it if an opposing campaign discovers something that actually happened in a politician’s past; however, the use of innuendo or implication without having proof appears to be more prevalent today and I find it ugly. Overall I do not like negative campaigns; I feel if a person wants to run for office then they must explain how they would do it without knocking down one of their opponents. If what was shown in this comedic drama is anywhere close to true then I am more naive than I imagine myself to be.    DOWN in the polls a Bolivian presidential candidate, played by Joaquim de Almeida (Fast Five, Behind Enemy Lines), hired an American strategist with killer instincts nicknamed Calamity Jane, played by Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side, The Heat). She would quickly discover she was in a race against her arch nemesis Pat Candy, played by Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, The Man Who Wasn’t There), who was working for the leading candidate. With Ann Dowd (Side Effects, Compliance) as Nell and Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Real Steel) as Ben, the cast was well rounded for the story line. However, the script got more dysfunctional as the story progressed in this drama. There were several scenes that seemed so ridiculous that I could not imagine they came anywhere close to actually happening, since this picture was a fictionalized story based on a past event. I was left with bored feelings as if I was watching a live version of the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons, with each of them taking turns on the receiving end. The dramatic parts that could have been effective were glossed over making them more like an afterthought. On the other hand, maybe this story was closer to reality than I realized which in this case would make me feel more disturbed about the modern election process.

 

1 3/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Campaign

I make it a point to never talk about religion or politics in my classes. Having been a witness to verbal assaults between people of opposing views, I find such behavior silly. In this age of reality television shows, how long before you think we will subject political candidates to a televised obstacle course or quiz show format? In this political year, here are two candidates who certainly would add some spice to any election race. Cam Brady, played by Will Ferrell (The Other Guys, Blades of Glory), was running unopposed for reelection. Two CEOs from a large corporation, looking for someone who would be in favor of legislation beneficial to their company, threw their money behind local tourist guide Marty Huggins, played by Zach Galifianakis (Due Date, The Hangover franchise). With Marty in the race, the campaign quickly heated up into an over the top battle–not so dissimilar from any current reality show competition. I laughed at several scenes during this comedic satire. Though I am not a fan of Will Ferrell, i found his limited acting ability worked to his advantage, in his role as the pandering incumbent. With everything these days being marketed to death, I found some of the looniness in this film not much different from what our political candidates must go through before any photo op or stump speech. The uncomplicated story was well served with the actors’ comedic talents. When the movie ended, I wondered what it would be like if we made every person with political aspirations go on a game show. Besides winning valuable gifts or prize money to fund their campaigns, we would really see what these people were made of. Stay through the first set of credits.

 

2 3/4 stars

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