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Flash Movie Review: Paradise Hills

I DID NOT SEE THEM UNTIL AFTER we were seated for dinner. They caught my eye because of what they were wearing, identical matching outfits. We were guests at a wedding, and I knew the two of them were not related to me. I had to assume they were a mother and daughter; the little girl looked like she was 5 to 7 years old. They were seated at a table nearby, in seats that were directly in line with my field of vision. Their dresses were made of a soft fabric like crepe or chiffon, with a pattern of autumn colored leaves all over it. With capped sleeves and a rounded neck, they each had a gold necklace around their neck that had a single dropped pearl dangling from it; in their pierced ears there were matching pearl earrings. I tried not to stare but the more I caught glimpses of them the more I found them fascinating in a creepy sort of way. Now I do not want to come off as disrespectful but seeing them dressed and acting the same made me uncomfortable. I have never been one to fall in line to fit in with the majority; I prefer people expressing their individuality and being different without feeling like they must conform to a certain set of “rules.” Watching these two with they identical hair styles and makeup just seemed so weird to me.      AFTER THE WEDDING EVENT ON MY DRIVE home, I spent some time thinking about that mother and daughter and my uneasiness with them dressing up to match each other. Having had some friends whose parents tried to raise them to be the same as their parents, I have always questioned the motivation behind it. Why did a mother or father want to have their child be just like them? Was it because that is how they were raised or maybe they wanted their child to be perfect, at least whatever they considered to be perfect? What I believe is children should be raised to be self-thinking, independent beings. Having spent many years feeling like an outsider, one could argue that has contributed to me wanting everyone to freely express their individuality. It is funny; I am remembering an incident with a friend who refused to go out to dinner with me until I had changed my clothes. He did not like what I was wearing, thinking it looked ridiculous on me. Because I did not want to argue I went ahead and put on a different shirt and pair of pants. I needed some of the gumption and fight the main character had in this film festival winner.      WAKING UP TO FIND OUT SHE was sent to a place that was going to change and mold her to fit into a certain society, there was only one person Uma, played by Emma Roberts (The Art of Getting By, We’re the Millers), knew who could do such a thing; it was her mother. With Danielle Macdonald (Patti Cake$, Dumplin’) as Chloe, Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell) as Yu, Eiza Gonzalez (Baby Driver, Bloodshot) as Amarna and Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil franchise, Shock and Awe) as The Duchess; this fantasy, sci fi thriller had some lofty goals. Visually, I enjoyed watching this picture; the sets and costumes, especially Milla’s, were wonderful. The cast was well-suited for the roles and worked well together. Unfortunately, I was able to figure out what was going to happen due to the script; it was a mashup of a few previous films in the same genre. There were some scenes that worked, but then others lacked focus. If this had been released (or maybe it was) at the theaters I cannot imagine it doing very well. However, seeing it at home made it more palatable for me. If nothing else, I certainly understood the message that was trying to be conveyed and commend the writers and director for trying to create something original. It was a shame it did not quite get to its high aspirations.

 

2 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Nerve

They said they did not like playing with me because I was no fun whenever we would play this game. The reason I was no fun to them is because I never took the dare, always picking truth. I never thought about it but I can now look back and see one of the reasons why I would never have chosen dare; I never liked giving up control. It seems as if my control issues started way back. The first time I recall playing this game called Truth or Dare was in high school. It wasn’t something you could buy off a store shelf; there was not an instruction book or a restriction on the number of players. A group of us were sitting around in the basement’s den at one of our houses. As soon as the game was explained I immediately knew I would be choosing truth all the time. You see I did not have a problem telling the truth. Not in a goody-goody type of way; I always just had this blunt way of speaking my mind, even if it would cause embarrassment. As far as I could tell, based on some of the dares that were taken, my words were no embarrassing than the actions of some of my friends. If memory serves me correctly by the time we neared senior year the game did not provide the same entertainment and fell to the wayside. I guess you could say we were growing up. It appears the game has evolved into something more based on what I saw in this adventure mystery.   HIGH school student Vee, played by Emma Roberts (We’re the Millers, American Horror Story-TV), thought she could stop playing a popular online game anytime she wanted to, but the game did not work that way. This dramatic crime film had a believable cast of actors. Besides Emma there was Dave Franco (Now You See Me franchise, Warm Bodies) as Ian, Emily Meade (That Awkward Moment, Trespass) as Syndey, Miles Heizer (Rudderless, Parenthood-TV) as Tommy and Kimiko Glenn (HairBrained, Orange is the New Black-TV) as Liv. The acting from Emma and Dave however stood out the most for me. Sitting in the theater, I have to tell you I not only felt old while watching this updated version of the game Truth or Dare, I believe I was the oldest person in the audience. The variety of dares piqued my interest at first; but as time went on, I was getting a little bored. What prevented me from totally not caring was the fast pace the director kept up. The scenes in the beginning were fine as they moved the story along and were actually entertaining. By the time the film was reaching its conclusion it seemed as if the writers were trying to give a morality lesson; it shifted the focus away from everything that happened earlier in the movie. There is a good chance younger viewers would enjoy this movie more than I did. All I can say is at my age I really did not care to play this game again.

 

2 ¼ stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Palo Alto

It was only 4 years, except for the 2 who started that riot, but that time in high school was a prelude to adult life. In those years i began to understand there was this invisible ranking system, more like a hierarchy, where each of us were being assigned a place. I had no say in the matter and assumed there were others like me. One of the toughest parts was when students would get stuck with a label. Among teachers I always figured they had their own list of labels they assigned to students; such as difficult, trouble or quiet. However, the words that were used and got stuck to the students had more bite to them. There were girls who had to live with derogatory words like skank, whore or bitch. For some reason the labels given to boys were not as harsh or maybe it was just my opinion. There were those who were called nerds, druggies, queers or jocks. These words were not always based on any factual information; many times it was just an eyeball observation. High school already had its challenges without the added pressure from one’s peers and this dramatic film unapologetically depicted that life during those years. Based on the book of the same name by James Franco, the film focused on several students as each one was working through a personal struggle. Part of the cast included Emma Roberts (We’re the Millers, Hotel for Dogs) as April, newcomer Jack Kilmer as Teddy, Nat Wolff (Stuck in Love, New Year’s Eve) as Fred and James Franco (This is the End, The Iceman) as Mister B. All did an adequate job of acting, coming across in an honest way. I did not have an issue with the directing, but jumping from one story line to another became tiresome. There were a couple of scenes that made me uncomfortable which was the reaction I felt the director was trying to achieve. However, there was not enough story to engage me. After a short time I became bored with the characters, not caring what happened to them. I did not read the book, but I have to assume the stories read better than being depicted here on the big screen. Some of you already know my high school years were filled more with nightmares than pleasant dreams, so I wanted to make sure I was not reacting to this film on a deeper, personal level before beginning my review. The answer is I am far removed from that chapter in my life and this movie did not offer anything new from what has been done before.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: We’re the Millers

Have you ever been introduced to someone and a red flag went off in your head that something was just not right? It happens to me periodically. When a close friend introduced a friend of hers to me, my radar went off when he told me he had heard I was a fitness instructor and he was one also. Asking him what type of classes and where he taught, his answers were vague. I started to get the feeling he was not telling me the truth and wondered if he was being honest with my friend, who was interested in him romantically. When she later asked me for my opinion I was honest with her and told her to be careful. It turned out this guy constantly lied to her, so any romantic seeds she had were quickly killed. People withhold the truth or lie for many reasons, just look at the cast in this movie. More than likely you will be glad they were fibbing because you will be laughing at them. Jason Sudeikis (The Campaign, Hall Pass) played drug dealer David Clark. Forced to take a job smuggling marijuana across the border from Mexico, David came up with a plan to turn himself into an RV driving dad on a road trip. Jason’s style of sarcastic humor played well with his role in this comedy. With Jennifer Aniston (Wanderlust, Horrible Bosses) playing Rose O’Reilly as his fake wife, there was Emma Roberts (Wild Child, Nancy Drew) and Will Poulter (Son of Rambow, Wild Bill) as Casey Mathis and Kenny Rossmore, the couple’s pretend children. The four of them created a workable and funny family to watch. I found the script did not provide any surprises; it was easy to see where scenes would go. However, there were parts where I laughed out loud. At a couple of points the story steered towards sentimental drama, but kept things light and brief before retreating back to the humor of the situation. I was concerned the trailers were showing the best parts of this movie; however, it turned out this comedy of crime was good for some easy laughs. Strong language was used throughout the film and a brief scene had a glimpse of blood in it.

 

2 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Twelve

Wisdom comes with age and if that is the case then I am still a teenager. Well at least it does when it comes to my driving since I visited South and North Dakota, where they have no posted speed limits. If no one is in the car with me, I am an assertive driver. I cannot understand why cars want to keep getting in my way. Now before you think I am some reckless maniac, I at least do not text or brush my teeth in the car. Except for the driving thing, I was never one for acting out in public. Who knew how true it was when my folks, along with my aunts and uncles, told me I would understand when I got older. If I only had the sense back then that I think I have now. After seeing this dramatic thriller, I wondered if the characters could say the same thing. I do not know if it had to do with not being a party animal or part of the popular group, but I felt old watching this movie. The parties I attended in high school and college were nothing like the ones shown here. Chace Crawford (The Covenant, Gossip Girl-TV) was drug dealer White Mike. Ever since his mother died of cancer, White MIke had stayed on the fringe with his peers. He purposely kept his childhood friend Molly, played by Emma Roberts (Nancy Drew, Wild Child), in the dark about his drug dealing, telling her he worked at his father’s restaurant. When his cousin was murdered, White Mike’s life began to unravel, the effects being felt all around him. I found individual scenes interesting; but when pieced together with Kiefer Sutherland’s (24-TV, The Reluctant Fundamentalist) narration, the drama waned. The acting was decent from Chace and Emma, along with Rory Culkin (Signs, You Can Count on Me) as Chris, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson (Real Steel, Morning Glory) as Lionel and Esti Ginzburg (Movie 43) as Sara Ludlow. Part of the problem was director Joel Schumacher’s (The Phantom of the Opera, Phone Booth) reliance on the story being told to us instead of showing it. If teenagers really act like they did in this film, then I am glad I am old. A couple of brief scenes with blood.

 

2 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: It’s Kind of a Funny Story

There was a time when one would see children playing outside. From a group of pretend space explorers to an afternoon tea party on the front lawn, a child’s imagination had no limits. I can remember playing in the alley behind the building I grew up in, with its high 3rd floor. Behind it there was a tall oak tree that I would climb up, to the height of the 2nd floor apartments. There I would sit and be the lookout for evil ghosts coming after my friends playing below in the alley. Today I rarely see children playing outside and I think it is because of all the pressures that are placed on them. With my family and friends who have children, there are so many activities they have signed their kids up for that there is no down time. I understand the thinking behind all these activities; creating opportunities for the child to excel, becoming well rounded, helping them on their path to becoming successful. Imagine the pressures that some children feel these days and may not have the tools to cope. In this poignant film from the writing duo of Ryan Fleck and Anna Buden (Half Nelson, Sugar) the story was about hight school student Craig, played by Keir Gilchrist (A Lobster Tale, Dead Silence). Unable to cope with the pressures placed on him, Craig admitted himself into a psychiatric ward of a hospital. Due to renovations in the juvenile ward, he had to be placed with the adult patients. With fellow patient Bobby, played by Zach Galifianakis (The Campaign, The Hangover franchise) as his guide; Craig discovered a world that appeared to be more normal than the one he left. I thought the topic of mental illness was gently handled in this dramatic comedy. The cast which also included Viola Davis (Beautiful Creatures, Won’t Back Down) as Dr. Eden Minerva and Emma Roberts (Nancy Drew, Hotel for Dogs) as Noelle did a beautiful job with their characters. There was a respect given to their maladies as they tried coping as best as they could. This was a stress free viewing experience, giving me the opportunity to sit back and relax.

2 2/3 stars — DVD 

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