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Flash Movie Review: Last Christmas

ALL I KNEW ABOUT HIM WAS he had not been feeling well for some time. He was more of an acquaintance to me than a friend; however, we had friends in common. I had seen him enough times to form an impression about him; he was a jokester/comedian type of guy. It appeared to me he enjoyed shocking people by making shocking comments and telling outrageous stories about himself. Whenever we were at a gathering together, I always knew exactly where he was located by the amount of laughter I would hear. Up until hearing about him not feeling well, he worked on being the center of attention at every party. I, nor anyone else I knew, never heard what news he received about his health; but I had to assume it was not good news because of the change in his behavior. From being a talker and comedian, he shied away from the limelight suddenly. When I would see him at a party, he was nothing like he used to be. Instead of telling jokes and stories, he could be found sitting somewhere having a quiet conversation with one or two people. The other thing I noticed was the way he started taking things to the extreme. In other words, if he had the opportunity to drink, he would drink to excess. If drugs were available, he would be the one who did not care how much of it he ingested.      I HAVE KNOWN SEVERAL PEOPLE WHO upon receiving bad news about their health acted in a similar way; but I also have seen others who acted in an opposite way. There was a woman I knew who did nothing different than what she did before hearing about her illness. She went on with her life as if the information was non-essential as commenting on the weather. I have wondered at times what would I do if I suddenly received bad news about my health. A couple of years ago when I contracted E Coli, the doctors were doing tests and zeroing on an internal organ that had a suspicious look to it on X-ray. I remember telling everyone in my inner circle the news along with explicit instructions never to ask me about it. When I got updated, I would notify them; but up until that point I did not want to discuss or think about it. Gratefully, everything worked out fine; but I must tell you, there was one point where I thought I was going to give up and not care about anything. Something like what happened to the main character in this romantic, dramatic comedy.     NO MATTER WHAT SHE DID IT seemed as if every decision went wrong for Kate, played by Emilia Clarke (Me Before You, Game of Thrones-TV). She did not care because she really should not have been alive. With Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians, A Simple Favor) as Tom, Emma Thompson (Late Night, Saving Mr. Banks) as Petra, Boris Isakovic (White White World, Absolute Hundred) as Ivan and Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Crazy Rich Asians) as Santa; the cast helped elevate the formulaic story. I thought Emilia did a wonderful job because I did not see her once as her character from Game of Thrones. Also, I felt she and Henry worked well together. If you have seen an ad for this movie you probably are aware the soundtrack is filled with George Michael songs. Some of them worked in the story, but others felt out of place for me. The story, for the most part, was predictable; but I did not mind. This was an easy film to watch and whether the execution of it was a bit stale, it still was touching and enjoyable.

 

2 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: Late Night

WHEN IT COMES TO MAKING A CHANGE, I would not be one of the first to jump on the “bandwagon;” I readily admit it. For most of my life I have lived by the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If something is working for me, then I will remain doing the same thing over and over; I never get tired of it. I will give you an example: during the work week I like eating the same lunch each and every day; I enjoy it as much as the day before. It turns out I am not alone in my family; in fact, I am a 3rd generation same lunch eater. Among my friends, however, I believe I am the only one who does it. I wish I knew what it is about change that causes me to be hesitant. Though I am wired this way, fitness is what helped me dent my regimented ways, believe it or not. When I became a fitness instructor I had no choice; if I wanted to have a successful class I had to learn how to be more flexible (no pun intended). With any form of exercise, it is a good policy to always change things up; doing the same thing over and over increases the risk of injury from overuse.      IN MY AEROBIC CLASSES I WOULD maintain the same routines for several weeks before introducing new movements. If I did not, members would eventually become both bored and stagnant with their fitness goals. I had to teach myself to let go and provide new challenges for my classes. Due to this I slowly became more comfortable with accepting change. It has been a long process. Another thing I have become aware of is how accepting change helps a person stay relevant. I think that is something more important if basing it on society’s standards. This brings to mind someone I used to work with who did the same thing every day. As the years went by, more employees started to forget about them; it did not help they did outside and inside sales. There were stretches of time where no one would have seen them. And when this employee came into the office their desk was in a remote part of the building. As the company grew and updated its software and hardware, this person essentially lost touch with their fellow employees. It was as if time stood still for them, they became lost in the new procedures and operations. It was a similar dilemma that the main character was experiencing in this comedic drama.     TRAILBLAZING LATE-NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST Katherine Newbury, played by Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Men in Black: International), after many years is now being looked at in a different light. The same old thing was not working anymore. With Mindy Kaling (A Wrinkle in Time, No Strings Attached) as Molly Patel, John Lithgow (Pet Sematary, Beatriz at Dinner) as Walter Lovell, Hugh Dancy (Adam, Martha Marcy May Marlene) as Charlie Fain and Reid Scott (Venom, Veep-TV) as Tom Campbell; this dramedy excelled from the wonderful acting by Emma and Mindy in particular. Emma’s timing was impeccable throughout the movie. I enjoyed the whole cast but these two really stood out for me. I was pleased with the story because I found it current, funny and thought-provoking; kudos to Mindy for writing the screenplay. Despite a few clichés here and there, this picture provided me with some solid entertainment. And that is saying something because during this film I realized there were certain aspects of Katherine that I could relate to and not in necessarily a good way.

 

3 stars         

Flash Movie Review: Johnny English Strikes Again

THERE ON THE RACK YOU SEE a sweater that not only grabs your eye, but you know you must have it. You start going through the rack; unfortunately, the color you want is not in your size. The style is what grabbed you at first and you know yourself so well.  Your wanting of it is now turning into a need. After checking the entire rack you are now faced with making a decision. The sales staff was no help because there was nothing left in stock; so, if you want the sweater you will have to settle on a different color. Blue is your favorite color, so you certainly do not want the brown or red one. Looking at the remaining colors you picture yourself wearing each color. The decision was not that difficult; you settle on the green colored sweater. You take satisfaction in your purchase because you know if you did not buy the sweater you would be thinking about it for a long time. Green was not such a bad color, you could deal with it not being blue.      THERE ARE SOME INDIVIDUALS WHO WOULD not have bought the sweater; they are the type who will not settle for something less than the exact thing they want. I believe I fluctuate somewhere in between, depending on the item. For a recent holiday we decided to celebrate at a restaurant. There were eight of us around an oval table. When it came to ordering off the menu, three of us chose the same thing. It was a turkey dinner with mashed potatoes and a cooked vegetable. After the waiter left with our orders we sat around talking while nibbling on the appetizers. In a few minutes the waiter came back to tell us out of the three turkey dinners, there were only two left. I was the first to speak up and told the waiter to give the other two their dinners; I would instead have the turkey burger and fries. The waiter was apologetic and left with my order. For me it was not a big deal; they didn’t have anymore, so what was I to do? When the meals were served the restaurant manager came up to apologize. I accepted his apology, so he would leave and all of us could start to eat. The meal was okay, but it was not a full dinner that looked especially good; I just settled for the turkey burger because I did not want there to be a fuss. The same thing could be said about this comedy film; If you do not have time to see a great movie, then this one might be okay instead.      WHEN A CYBER-ATTACK EXPOSES THE identities of Britain’s secret service agents there is only one agent available who is off the grid retired agent Johnny English, played by Rowan Atkinson (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bean franchise). Can old school spying work in a computer connected world? This action adventure also starred Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Bridget Jones’ Baby) as Prime Minister, Ben Miller (Paddington 2, What We Did on our Holiday) as Bough and Olga Kurylenko (The Death of Stalin, Hitman) as Ophelia Bauletova. This entire film had a retro vibe that reminded me of the Pink Panther movies. There was nothing that stood out as horrible; but for the most part, everything in the story seemed like it was done before. Rowan is quite good with physical comedy which is lucky since most of the script was having a gag upon gag upon gag. I did not find anything hilarious; possibly because the set-ups were all predictable to me. If the show times aren’t working for you to see a better film and you are the type who doesn’t mind settling, then this picture would just be okay. But do not spend money on a full priced ticket.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast

WHEN I ask why they are attracted to that certain feature of the individual, the answer is never the same. It is perplexing to me how people acquire a particular attraction to a person’s height, hair color or body type. Friends of mine to this day test me because they cannot believe I do not pay attention to the surface details of an individual. They will point at someone and ask me if I would be attracted to that person. Each time I have to tell them I do not know until I have had a couple of conversations with that particular individual. Maybe from my studies in psychology I attempt to rationalize a person’s tastes in potential dates. In some circles of thought one could say one of the reasons a person is attracted to redheads is because they are less available, rarer if you will. This person wants to stand out from the pack. Someone may be attracted to facial hair because it represents a father figure, an authoritarian. There are so many different interpretations, yet they still do not answer my fundamental thought: why should it make a difference what a person looks like? You can have what looks like the most perfect apple in your hand, but it still may be rotten underneath the skin.     TAKING this a step further, I feel the same way about a person’s ethnicity. The only thing a person’s ethnic makeup tells me is what region of the world their ancestors were born. After taking in the cultural differences, I do not find anything different between people of different races. Each group produces geniuses, thieves, liars, bigoted and loving people. I find this whole discrimination thing puzzling and troubling. People are quick to make judgments about individuals solely based on skin color; I just do not get it. From what I have said you may begin to suspect, this fairy tale is one my favorite stories from childhood.     SIMPLY by plucking a single rose off a bush Maurice, played by Kevin Kline (Cry Freedom, My Old Lady), was imprisoned by a monstrous beast, played by Dan Stevens (The Guest, Downton Abbey-TV). If it was not for his daughter Belle, played by Emma Watson (The Bling Ring, Harry Potter franchise); Maurice would have never survived the ordeal. This live action, fantasy musical was based on the animated film version of this story done in the 1990s. With Luke Evans (Dracula Untold, The Raven) as Gaston and Josh Gad (The Wedding Ringer, Jobs) as LeFou, the cast members not associated with singing surprised me with their vocal abilities. Emma took her character and made it a somewhat more modern and determined figure. I do not know if it was because of this or not, but I found her interactions with the Beast emotionally too fast. She never had a sense of revulsion upon meeting the Beast; in other words there was a lack of tension between the two. The same argument could be made with other portions of the film; the story was quickly pushed from one action scene to another I felt. At least the creativity and imagination that went into the sets and individual pieces were thoroughly entertaining. Along with the wonderful musical score and beautiful story, there are more things to like about this film than not. Maybe just do not look too deep under the surface to find the cracks.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Bridget Jones’s Baby

I have to be honest; I was enjoying the attention given to me. It started out with short voice messages being left on my phone. Nothing major just things like wishing me a good day or they wanted me to know they were thinking about me. From there as our relationship progressed I would be surprised from time to time with a “care” package left at my front door. It could be a box of chocolate chip cookies or an envelope filled with coupons from the Sunday newspapers. I found these left items endearing and sweet. For it being early in our relationship I was actually surprised with so much attention. To me their actions showed confidence, desire and on some level their willingness to take a risk. More of my past relationships had more tentativeness to them, where the two of us took our time to learn and reveal more about each other; so this particular relationship took me a little by surprise at first. Later on it took me by shock. You see while the two of us were becoming more intimate with each other, they were also dating someone else. It turns out they had met me a couple of weeks after this other guy they had been seeing, so decided to continue both relationships and see who would be the winner. I had no idea I was in a competition; for if I had, I would have ended it. Granted my odds were 50/50 but it would have been hard for me to let the walls protecting my heart come down in a situation like this one. I am only competitive with myself unlike the gentlemen in this romantic comedy.   TURNING another year older Bridget, played by Renee Zellweger (Cinderella Man, Chicago), decided it was time to make some changes in her life. She just had not planned on making such a drastic change like the one that took place. With Patrick Dempsey (Made of Honor, Enchanted) as Jack, Colin Firth (Magic in the Moonlight, The King’s Speech) as Mark and Gemma Jones (Sense and Sensibility, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) as Mum; the acting was well done. If I saw the previous Bridget Jones movies I do not have a memory of them so I will judge this sequel on its own. The story was fun with a script that offered a variety of physical comedy. I will say it took some time before I started to get into this film; the beginning did not grab me right away with the slow pacing. Maybe if I was more familiar with the Bridget character I would have felt differently. However once Patrick and Colin were in the story, I enjoyed the banter and the pacing picked up. There was a sense of the writers trying hard to make this sequel funny because I was starting to feel Bridget was turning into a cartoon character with all the incidents taking place. Overall I think those viewers familiar with Bridget will enjoy this film more than those who are just being introduced to the character. Maybe I should see the 2 previous films to make a comparison.

 

2 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: A Walk in the Woods

Usually I am met with perplexed looks on friends’ faces when I tell them one of the highlights of my trip was taking public transportation. I do not know if I can explain it, but something connects inside of me when riding public buses or trains in a new city. There is a dual feeling of being an outsider yet fitting in with a group of strangers, going through a similar routine. One of the major benefits of taking public transportation is the opportunity to see multiple sights in an easy and quick fashion. When I was in Rome I remembered waiting for a subway train, standing among a crowd of office workers. Except for the language they were no different from the ones I see on my daily commute to work. I feel like I get a sense of a city’s energy or vibe as I ride around it. Similar to my friends not judging me (or at least I hope not), I do not question the things they insist on doing while on vacation. There is one friend who has to go to at least one museum no matter where he winds up. It could be a major institution or a little shack that is run by an elderly couple who remember the history about the area. I am sure most of us have the need to participate in things that are challenging to explain to others who do not have the same thought process. For that reason I understood why the main character had to do what he needed to do in this adventure comedy.    BILL Bryson, played by Robert Redford (All is Lost, The Horse Whisperer), was given one requirement by his wife Catherine, played by Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Sense and Sensibility), if he insisted on going on this trip that made no sense to her. He could not go alone; he would have to find someone to join him. After going through a list of people, that someone turned out to be Stephen Katz, played by Nick Nolte (Warrior, Cape Fear), who still owed him $600.00. Having been out of touch for so many years, what would be the ultimate cost to have Stephen come with him? Based on Bill Bryson’s popular memoir, the cinematography was gorgeous in this film. I wished there had been even more shots of the landscape. The other thing I wanted was a decent script to match the caliber of the actors. All the story seemed to be was one lame gag after another; it was embarrassing to watch. It appeared as if all the writers wanted to do was provide schtick for Robert and Nick; it took away from the few decent scenes in this dramatic comedy. If the book of this true story has photos of his trip, I should have bought the book instead of watching this film version.

 

2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Impromptu

I agree that opposites attract is valid most of the time; however, sometimes it can be a real challenge. My friends were quite puzzled when I was in a relationship with a mathematician. In fact, they had a PhD degree in mathematics. Looking back I have to laugh at some of the conversations we used to have when we were in disagreement. Where they needed fact based information to make a decision, they were always perplexed when I would say things like “it feels right” or “that is how I feel.” How does one explain a feeling to a scientific mind? Suffice to say our different perspectives was the cleaver that finally severed our relationship. So here in this movie there were two individuals who were curious about each other; both passionate about their respective creative talents. This comedy was extra fun for me because it combined two of my favorite things besides movies: music and books. Judy Davis (Barton Fink, To Rome with Love) played writer Amandine Lucile Aurore Dupin aka George Sand. She was known to wear men’s clothing  and smoke cigars, besides her romantic affairs with some prominent men; all which were quite outrageous back in the early 1800s. Upon hearing rapturous music being played on the piano by composer Frederic Chopin, played by Hugh Grant (About a Boy, Music and Lyrics), George was determined to meet this man whose music was speaking directly to her heart. Unfortunately former lovers and friends had different ideas for them. This biographical film was enjoyable on multiple levels. Seeing a young Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Sense and Sensibility) play Duchess D’Antan, Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride, Criminal Minds-TV) as Alfred De Musset and Bernadette Peters (The Jerk, Annie) as Maria D’Agoult was amusing to me. The acting from the whole cast was solidly cohesive. I have to tell you I liked the retro look to the whole film. What I mean is the use of actual film to shoot the picture and on location in France without any type of special effects. Of course it was understandable since the movie was made over 20 years ago. Being familiar with the works of Chopin and Franz Liszt, played by Julian Sands (The Killing Sands, Leaving Las Vegas), I found the connection between my own knowledge of these historic figures and the characterizations of them in this musical film a crazy juxtaposition. This comedy would not only work for those who have a strong creative side but to those with a dominant scientific mind.

3 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Saving Mr. Banks

There is a place where all the should do’s, have to do’s and suppose to do’s in life cannot infiltrate; it is in one’s memories. Some of these remembrances may be average such as a friend’s phone number or a bank account number; however, there is a special area where the cherished memories are stored. It is in this place where I keep my fondest memories that get quick access to my heart. I remember my favorite babysitter who had a way of reading a story where the characters would come to life for me. She had a quiet gentleness that I found soothing. The reason she is presently closest in my thoughts is due to this comedic drama about a nanny. This film reveals the true untold story of how Walt Disney gained the rights to create what was to become the iconic film Mary Poppins. In that place where my fondest memories reside is the memory of the first time I saw this film about the unusual nanny, Mary Poppins. Since I can perfectly recall that experience I was concerned this biographic film would taint my memories. I can honestly say it did no such thing, instead it added a new depth of color to my vivid memories. Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility, Pirate Radio) played the fiercely protective author of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers. Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips, The Terminal) played Walt Disney, the creative genius who spent 20 years pursuing the author for the rights so he could keep a promise he made to his daughters. This film received a brilliant performance by Emma, who was as difficult and unyielding as anyone could be against the creator of Mickey Mouse. The scenes where she had to sit with the creative team of Don DaGadi, played by Bradley Whitford (Scent of a Woman, The West Wing-TV), and brothers Robert and Richard Sherman, played by B.J. Novak (Knocked Up, Inglorious Basterds) and Jason Schwartzman (The Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom), provided me a wild history lesson to some of the cherished songs from the Mary Poppins movie. The one complaint I had was the use of dual story lines because I thought each story could be its own film. Though I will say I thought Colin Farrell (Total Recall, Pride and Glory) did a touching, emotional job as P.L. Travers’ father. The insertion of Mary Poppins film clips in this Golden Globe nominated movie added to the heightened amount of joy I experienced during this film. I am happy to say my childhood memory of seeing Mary Poppins now has a new coating of fondness due to this beautiful movie. Please make sure you stay through part of the credits to hear the actual recordings of P.L. Travers.

 

3 1/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Beautiful Creatures

Early into this fantasy film it occurred to me that I may be watching descendants of Samantha and Darrin Stephens. I am referring to the television show not the movie with Nicole Kidman. Before Lena Duchannes from this movie, Bella Swan from Twilight or Hermione Granger from Harry Potter; there was Samantha and her mother Endora. Darrin and Samantha represented one of the earliest interspecies marriages between a human and a witch. So you see with today’s movies and books about witches and humans, we can trace a path back to Samantha. That is why I was not too terribly surprised with this film. Relative newcomer Alice Englert played Lena Duchannes, a young witch on the verge of celebrating a special birthday. For on that day Lena would choose whether to practice on the dark side of casting or the light side. Her path would become complicated when she fell in love with Ethan Wate, played by Alden Ehrenreich (Tetro, Twixt). The two teenagers had more in common than they realized at first. Could Ethan’s love of Lena alter the choices laid out before her? What really made this dramatic fantasy were the older cast members. Jeremy Irons (The Words, Margin Call) and Emma Thompson (Last Chance Harvey, Nanny McPhee franchise) were excellent as Lena’s uncle Macon Ravenwood and powerful evil witch Sarafine. As I expected, Viola Davis did a fine job as librarian Amma. A surprise was the enthusiastic performance from Emmy Rossum (The Phantom of the Opera, The Day After Tomorrow) as Lena’s cousin Ridley Duchannes. The movie felt a bit rushed for me as if the film studio and all involved wanted to get this story out quickly. If they would have taken their time, I believe they would have made a better looking and deeper movie experience. Having knowledge of past tales about witches and humans, this movie had more of a “been there, done that” type of feeling. Like the first time you heard about an interspecies relationship, it may have surprised you; hearing about it now was no big deal.

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Brave

I do not have children; but if I had, my hope would be that I raised them to be free thinking, independent adults. My parents did, even if that was not their intentions. With that being the case, the story in this Pixar animated movie was a success. Princess Merida, voiced by Kelly MacDonald (No Country For Old Men, Nanny McPhee), was not going to grow up in the traditions of her mother Queen Elinor, voiced by Emma Thompson (Love Actually, Last Chance Harvey). Merida did not want her parents deciding who she could marry or how she should act. If only she could make her parents understand; the young princess was determined to break the traditions of her family. What I found different in this movie was the presence of a strong conflict between mother and daughter. In my opinion it was about time an animated movie dealt with deeper real life issues, yet still have the elements of a funny Disney movie. There was conflict, a challenge and a consequence; but for the broader audience, there were elements of humor, adventure and fantasy. It was like having a smorgasbord of emotions spread out for the viewer to sample. Visually this movie was stunning; the amount of detail was breathtaking. I was mesmerized by Merida’s beautiful, flaming red hair–it looked so real. Overall I felt the film had a split personality. There seemed to be a shift in focus that dulled the story for me, when the witch’s spell came into play. But like any relationship, one could not pick and chose the parts they liked. The entire movie experience for me was good, not great and I almost felt as if I had just been to Scotland.

 

2 3/4 stars

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