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Flash Movie Review: Juliet, Naked

I WAS RECENTLY TOLD ABOUT A man who came home one day to find a note left by his wife on the kitchen table. Written on the piece of paper were the words, “I can’t do this anymore.” That is all that she had written. He looked around the room and everything seemed to be in its place. After checking the rooms on the first floor of their house he nervously walked upstairs to the bedrooms. Each one was empty; he could not understand what was going on. The only clue that was provided to him was the closet door in their bedroom was ajar. He walked over to it and saw some of her clothes were hanging up, but there were a lot of empty hangers on the clothes rack. She must have left he thought, so he walked out of the bedroom to check the utility closet where they kept their luggage stored and saw a piece was missing. His mind simply went numb; he had no idea why his wife suddenly picked up and left him. He tried calling her cell phone, but a recorded message said it was now an invalid number. This was just crazy he thought; there was no sign or even discussions about being unhappy in their 22 years of marriage. He had no idea how he was going to tell his two adult children that their mother had disappeared.     THE STORY I JUST TOLD YOU actually took place and in case you were wondering the wife eventually did call her husband to apologize for leaving him that way. However, she did want a divorce. When this story was told to me I could not believe someone who had been married for all those years could do such a thing to their spouse. There is nothing worse than not getting an explanation for someone’s actions. What I was curious about was why the wife waited so many years to make a change. I did not think she just suddenly became unhappy in the relationship, right? Wouldn’t you have thought if she was unhappy she would talk to her husband or at least a therapist at some point, instead of staying married for all those years? There was a term a professor of mine used to use in my college sociology class; it was “holy deadlock.” It meant the couple stayed together for financial or religious reasons as an example despite not wanting to be in the relationship. This dramatic comedy can show you an example of it.      WHAT STARTED OUT AS AN EMAIL became the catalyst for what Annie, played by Rose Byrne (Peter Rabbit, This is Where I Leave You), had been missing for a long time. This film festival nominee also starred Ethan Hawke (First Reformed, Maudie) as Tucker Crowe, Chris O’Dowd (Molly’s Game, The Program) as Duncan, Jimmy O. Yang (Crazy Rich Asians, Patriots Day) as Elliot and Azhy Robertson (Furlough, The Americans-TV) as Jackson. What set this romantic comedy apart from others I have seen was the script. The usual silly jokes and stereotypical situations were not included; the writers let the actors play in the real world. I thought the acting between Rose an Ethan was honest and real, a bit magical in fact. Add in Chris’ great sense of timing and facial expressions and the three of them were wonderful to watch. Now there were some parts of the movie that dragged slightly for me, along with a couple of scenes that seems uncompleted; however, it was a pleasure to witness people dealing with what life had to give them. This movie spoke to me and I appreciated it.

 

3 stars          

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Flash Movie Review: First Reformed

EVERY TIME I BUY A newspaper I believe I am doing my part in preventing the publisher from shutting down. I know it is a fallacy, but I have to believe it is true. The convenience store used to have their racks full of newspapers; now if I do not get there early enough the few papers they do get are already gone. It makes me sad because I prefer reading a newspaper instead of looking at an electronic screen. So, I want to believe my little contribution will help sustain newspapers through my lifetime. I have a similar belief when it comes to my personal banking. There is no way I want a debit card; it is that simple. Yet anytime I need to use a teller the first thing they ask me is to swipe my debit card. When I say I do not have one they give me this look as if I am a much older version of a Rip Van Winkle character. I want to believe that I am not alone, that there are others like me who prefer doing their banking the old-fashioned way and by that, I mean the banks still need to keep their branches open with tellers.      WHEN IT COMES TO BELIEFS I believe I am not alone; each of us has a set of beliefs. The ones I just mentioned are not based on any facts which fits into the definition of belief. It is a state of mind where a person thinks something is true despite having evidence to prove it. For me my beliefs are based in feelings, not facts. An example would be the route I take to work. I believe it is the fastest way to get to my office; however, if someone shows me a different way that is faster, then I will no longer believe my route is the fastest. Remember there was a time where people believed the earth was flat; it took science to show them that was not the case. I consider beliefs to be multifaceted; some people refer to them as opinions, others define them as faith. It seems to me beliefs assist us in finding order in the world or put another way, they help explain the world around us. This does not mean I expect others to have the same beliefs; in fact, I would be offended if someone tried to foist their beliefs onto me. They are a personal matter as far as I am concerned. To see how beliefs can affect a person, feel free to watch this film festival winning, dramatic thriller.      IN THE MIDDLE OF PREPARATIONS for his church’s celebration Reverend Ernst Toller, played by Ethan Hawke (Born to Be Alive, The Magnificent Seven), experiences a crisis of faith. With Amanda Seyfried (The Big Wedding, Dear John) as Mary, Cedric the Entertainer (Larry Crowne, Barbershop franchise) as Reverend Joel Jeffers and Victoria Hill (December Boys, Macbeth) as Esther; this thought provoking movie posed a variety of topical issues. Written and directed by Paul Schrader (Raging Bull, The Walker), I found the acting to be excellent. Not in a flowery or over the top type of way, but simply an adult driven script that infused the characters with realness. I felt the way the picture was filmed complimented the script, set in upstate New York, beautifully. My major complaint about this movie concerned the lead up to the ending. I did not like the element of fantasy that was introduced nor the way the story ended. It was a letdown for me because I believed the script was going to maintain a consistent flow to its conclusion. You might think differently because you have a different set of beliefs and that is okay.

 

3 stars       

Flash Movie Review: Maudie

SITTING in the waiting room there was a woman near me who was feverishly knitting. I could not tell what she was making but I was fascinated with the dexterity of her fingers; they looked like spider legs that were spinning silk into a massive web. Normally I would not have paid much attention to her since I know many people who take their knitting with to work on pieces when they have free time. There was something different about her though; her pace I can only say was caffeinated. However I noticed one of her legs was deliberately shaking up and down, like a mini pneumatic power jack. This is something I do when I have excess energy but I also know people do it when they are nervous or anxious. To tell you the truth she did not look relaxed at all; there was an intensity about the way she sat in her chair and there were no clues on her face telling me she was relaxed. I do not know maybe knitting was her therapy; it was a valid point.     HOWEVER a person deals with stress is their business; I give them credit for finding an outlet to eliminate it as best as they can from their body and mind. When I had access to a piano it was my “go to” place whenever I was troubled or under stress. Creating music was a soothing experience where I could get lost and forget the reality I was experiencing. I would assume almost every person has some outlet that provides them a peaceful place. For some it may be participating in or watching sports programs, others may take long walks. Teaching yoga these past years has provided me another outlet where I can experience calmness. That is the key when it comes to disconnecting the mind from a stressful situation; one has to focus on the thing they love and stick with it. It is because of that I found myself intently following the story in this film festival winning movie based on a true story.     MAUD Lewis, played by Sally Hawkins (A Brilliant Young Mind, Blue Jasmine), loved to paint. No matter what anyone thought or did to her, her painting brought her comfort. No one thought much of her work except one person. This biographical romantic drama had a pure beautiful story. With Ethan Hawke (The Magnificent Seven, Training Day) as Everett Lewis, Kari Matchett (Civic Duty, Cypher) as Sandra, Gabrielle Rose (A Dog’s Purpose, The Sweet Hereafter) as Aunt Ida and Zachary Bennett (Hacker, Jack) as Charles Dowley; the acting between Sally and Ethan has to be seen to be believed. Sally was incredible and deserves to be nominated for a film award. I never heard of Maud Lewis but I absolutely enjoyed the arc to this film’s story. The depth and the transformations displayed by the characters kept me engaged throughout the picture. Set in Nova Scotia, I thought the natural beauty of the landscapes created wonderful opportunities for the filming process. Simple scenes were still able to convey emotions clearly. I did wish the writers had provided a little more background information for Maud and Everett, particularly Everett because I was not sure what was motivating his emotions in the early parts of the story. However this was a mild concern. The human character is amazing and seeing what a person can create out of troubling situations is a beautiful feat.

 

4 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Magnificent Seven

It only takes a few minutes after the alarm goes off before the sense of dread awakens inside of you. With a heaviness that weighs you down, you would think it would be thick enough to fend off any physical blows. Sadly it does not prevent it. When you are living with dread, you really have no idea how much energy it takes away from you. Like a straw continuously seeking out the last drops of a bottomless glass, dread constantly makes it presence known no matter what you are doing to distract yourself from it. Unfortunately I know too well what I speak of; dread was my unwanted friend for an entire school year. My daily walk to school was devoted to planning out what escape routes I would use for the day. One never wanted to be caught navigating the same route each day because it could provide for an easy ambush. Bathrooms were always avoided between class times. Instead I would either ask for a hall pass during the class or wait for a free period; I had to wait for a time when it would be less likely anyone would be lying in wait for me. Unless you have been bullied, you may not understand what it feels like to always be on the defensive throughout the day. I was not the only one who was targeted and that was something I never understood. The general population, whether it is in a school or a town, is usually so much larger than the bully and their cohorts; yet the masses rarely band together to stop the bully. At least that has been my experiences. It was hopeful to see that was not the case in this action western remake of a classic film.   DETERMINED to take over the entire town Bartholomew Bogue, played by Peter Sarsgaard (Orphan, Jarhead), gave the townsfolk an ultimatum. One citizen, a recent widow due to Bartholomew, was willing to fight for her land; but she needed help. Starring Denzel Washington (The Equalizer, Training Day) as Chisolm, Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) as Josh Faraday and Ethan Hawke (Born to be Blue, Good Kill) as Goodnight Robicheaux; the only actors who stood out for me were Ethan, Chris and Peter. I thought Denzel was a generic version of the character, not quite believable. The filming of this movie was the highlight; the outdoor scenes were the best. As for the action scenes some really popped out with intensity while others seemed scattered and all over the place. I really felt the script was what prevented this picture from achieving its lofty goals. The reason I say lofty is because it was obvious everyone involved was trying to make this a modern classic, even taking on the original music during the ending credits. Unfortunately it did not work; overall this film production was uneven. There were parts I could get into but then other times I found them bland. Also this movie was way too long; it could have used some extra editing. I am sure the film studio wants this picture to punch its way to the top of the box office charts; however, I do not think the other movies will let it stay there.

 

2 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Maggie’s Plan

No matter how hard one tries to plan things out, life is always the ultimate decider. Take it from someone who does his best to plan everything to the minute (people can set their watches by me); life has a way of saying, “Not so fast there, here is something you can deal with first.” As I get older I am finally learning to let go and as they say, “Go with the flow.” This reminds me of a woman I knew who was married with 2 children. I met her husband only once or twice, but really did not know much about him since she rarely talked about him. They had been married for years and were quite settled as they were heading towards their senior years. According to her it came out of nowhere; her husband filed for divorce. She told me he did not want to be with her anymore; there was no other reason given for his decision. She was devastated by it. Here she thought she had most of her life planned out with her husband and now, as she would constantly say, she was alone. I told her that was not true; besides her children and friends, she may want to look at her situation as a place where she could redefine herself. Of course, I waited awhile before I expressed these thoughts at a time where I thought she would be more receptive to hearing them. And do you want to know something? She branched out and started trying new activities and meet up groups, where she eventually met someone who was as passionate as she was about dancing. They started going together to see ballet performances and enrolled in several dance classes; it was such a hoot to hear about this from her. She was happier than she had ever been before. Isn’t it funny how your version of life may not be what is in store for you?   MAGGIE, played by Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, Mistress America), had everything planned out it to become a single parent. That is until she met John, played by Ethan Hawke (Born to be Blue, Good Kill). This film festival nominated comedic drama had a wonderful cast of actors. Along with Greta and Ethan there was Julianne Moore (Seventh Son, Still Alice) as Georgette and Bill Hader (They Came Together, Trainwreck) as Tony; each one made their role memorable, but I have to say Greta was incredible. I found this romantic story to be intelligent and quirky at the same time. It had adult conversation coming from messed up people, making them more real to me. There were a few scenes that I felt did not work, besides one story line that seemed odd to me. It is not easy to blend comedy and drama but the script pulled it off; the humor was more of an amusement level than a laugh out loud one. For me this film simply felt like a slice of life, where I could just sit and watch someone else’s drama without feeling like I needed to participate and be supportive.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Born to Be Blue

Addiction is defined as an unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something. When I hear the word addicted or addiction I immediately think of something harmful like drugs or alcohol. It would never occur to me to think of something that could be detrimental to a person. However, if I think about the above definition what would you say about a person who grew up only wanting to do one activity; let us say running or shopping. Now I knew someone who would get at least one package every day delivered to their house for things they would purchase online; can you imagine? There was one room of the house that you could barely see the walls because the boxes were stacked so high. Would you say this person was addicted to shopping? My answer would be yes. Maybe I am not the one to talk about this since some of my friends think I am addicted to movie watching; like that is a bad thing if it were true? But seriously, I wonder what takes place in an individual to sway them to a particular activity if they already have a predisposition to addiction. I do not know why but after seeing this movie I started thinking about different activities and you know, there are so many ways you can consider them being an addiction. If I remember correctly there was a news report about a person who was addicted to plastic surgery. They had gone through at least a dozen different procedures for different parts of their body and face. I cannot fathom it let alone what the cost must have been. It is a curious subject that plays out in this movie.   THIS film festival nominated drama was about jazz musician Chet Baker, played by Ethan Hawke (Training Day, Good Kill). Also starring Carmen Ejogo (Selma, Pride and Glory) as Jane/Elaine and Callum Keith Rennie (The Butterfly Effect, Fifty Shades of Grey) as Dick, I thought the acting was quite good. I had no idea Ethan could sing or play the trumpet; but if not him, he certainly was convincing to me. Set in the 1960s this film had a real retro look for the era and I admired the way it was filmed. The script moved back and forth between different years of Chet’s life; since I am not familiar with him, I did not mind the switches. Also, I enjoyed listening to the soundtrack besides witnessing his place in music history. Due to the coincidence of this being my 2nd musical film this week, there is a tendency to compare the two. I have to say both films had excellent acting, but I felt more engaged to this film. Hopefully I am not biased because I am more familiar with jazz music then country. I think this story was more authentic and had a film style that better matched the music genre. You may not get addicted to the story or music but there was enough here to keep you interested about his life.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Good Kill

I always watch the way their fingers move like spider’s legs weaving a web. There is a rhythm to it that is not familiar to me.  These fingers always belong to a younger person, even those all the way down to 5 year olds. When I see them playing their video games my focus is more on their dexterity than the actual game, especially if the game is filled with guns and violence. I see enough of that in our everyday life. This is the reason why I will not teach any aerobic classes that involve punching and kicking, with titles like aerobic combat or fitness war. I have seen enough people playing video games that I sit and marvel how we created this whole new generation of humans who have this incredible eye and hand coordination; besides video games, where else could they apply this skill? My years of playing piano have given me a certain control over my fingers, but I do not come close to those individuals referred to as gamers. There is one aspect of the video game experience that I am curious about that concerns the long term effects of playing violent games. Will a person become less shocked or even oblivious to seeing violence? Seeing war footage from the various news services, will it only be perceived in a video game context? These are things I think about and this movie could be used as an example for it.    AFTER serving several tours of duty as an air force pilot Major Thomas Egan, played by Ethan Hawke (Boyhood, Training Day), found himself sitting in a metal box looking at a video screen all day as a drone pilot. As the level of targets increased something was starting to eat away at his conscience. This film festival nominee was a chilling thriller. I was riveted to the movie screen because I could not tell if I was watching reenacted or real military scenes. The cast which also included January Jones (Unknown, Mad Men-TV) as Molly Egan, Zoe Kravitz (Divergent franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road) as airman Vera Suarez and Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek franchise, Deja Vu) as Lt. Colonel Jack Johns only added to the dramatic tension throughout this film. There was some predictability to the story which slowed the pace down; however, I found Ethan’s performance exceptional enough to power through any of the negatives I had about the script. I really was stunned or maybe I should say enlightened by this whole other world filled with drones. It really gave me food for thought, where I had to wonder what qualifications were needed to become a drone pilot. Do you think military experience will be necessary or will it be more important for the person applying to list gamer on their resume?

 

3 stars

 

                                                                                              

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Predestination

Have you ever wondered if you were able to get one superpower what would you pick? And what would you do with it; use it to make your neighborhood a better place or do something that would bring you some type of personal gain? I was part of a conversation where we were discussing this very thing. When I was very young I wished I had the ability to fly. There was something about flying that always intrigued me. Little did I know how handy this would be in my adult life when commuting to work, especially when stuck in rush hour traffic. As I grew up the flying wish was replaced with the desire to become invisible. My reason for this had little to do with being naturally curious about things and more about protection. The idea that I could have walked through school hallways or out along the streets of the city undetected fascinated me to no end. These days the desire to be invisible has greatly diminished and I fluctuate between a couple of other superpowers. One of them was used in this unique science fiction film.    ETHAN Hawke (Boyhood, Training Day) played a barkeep who secretly was a time traveling agent for an organization that tried to prevent crimes before they happened. His last assignment would be his hardest because of who he had to track down and find before a horrific event took place. This film festival winning action thriller did not have the usual trappings of a science fiction movie. The entire look of the film was so cool in a film noir type of way. I thought Sarah Snook (Jessebelle, Not Suitable for Children) was outstanding as the unmarried mother; she played a captivating character. Including Noah Taylor (Almost Famous, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as Mr. Robertson and Christopher Kirby (Daybreakers, The Matrix franchise) as Mr. Miles, I thought all the actors worked well together. The idea of traveling back in time to prevent a crime was nothing new to me; however, the way this story unfolded was so different and absorbing to me. Maybe I am not a deep thinker regarding the figuring out of my movies; but the ending left me completely perplexed. I am sure there must be many ways to interpret this story, but I still do not have a clue on what took place. Does this bother me? Yes, I like my endings to be closer to neat and tidy. However, someone else may be able to explain it to me; I am all ears. Normally I do not go back and watch a movie over again, but I might do it for this one.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Boyhood

How many of us can say we knew who or what we would become when we were young? During our formative years, the blossom of youth began to mold and form us into the future adults we would become. Family members, friends, peers and even the media played a part in our development. Recently I was sitting with relatives looking at old photographs and was fascinated with their reactions to seeing themselves. The majority scowled, looking like they had just bit into a sour piece of fruit. They would quickly turn the photo over to get it out of their eyesight. As I watched them I was recalling my impressions of them when they were young, compared to who they were now. It was curious to see how our life experiences altered each of us. Where some events seemed major back then, today they appeared inconsequential; however, they did steer each of us in a different direction. If photographs could initiate these thoughts imagine what would happen if your life was being documented year to year.    WRITER and director Richard Linklater (Me and Orson Welles, Dazed and Confused) had an audacious idea for a movie, to film the life of one boy for 12 years. This film festival wining drama was the end result as it followed the life of Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane (Fast Food Nation, Lone Star State of Mind), from a young 6 year old until he reached 18 years of age. Ethan Hawke (Sinister, Snow Falling on Cedars) and Patricia Arquette (Ed Wood, True Romance) played his father and mother, while relative newcomer Lorelei Linklater played his sister Samantha. The story was simple and straightforward as the movie viewer became a witness to the family’s reactions to life throughout the years. I found myself taking a different mindset while I watched this film. There were no surprises or twists to the story; one simply sat and observed this average family dealing with whatever came their way, like most of us do on a daily basis. The acting was amazing considering the cast would come together once a year and have to pick up where they left off the previous year. A tidbit for you from an interview I read with the director: he would not let the younger cast see playbacks on any of their scenes, only allowing the older cast members because Richard did not want the young actors to be influenced from seeing themselves in their roles. I found it especially unbelievable that the scenes seemed seamless as the story aged. There will be some of you who will feel the story dragged at times and I understand. I enjoy seeing anyone’s old family photographs, so watching this film felt like I was an invited guest of this family.

 

3 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Getaway

It starts with the smell as the door is opened. The only thing I can think of is the odor comes across as if it is organic. With untouched upholstery, there is nothing like getting into a brand new car. When I traded in my old automobile for a new one; it had been so long, I almost forgot about that new car aroma. My first week driving around; I considered keeping a pair of slippers in the car, so the floorboard would keep that pristine, unblemished look. In the second month of ownership, the car looked as new as the day I drove it home from the dealership. I remembered the day was a Saturday and I was parked in front of the post office. Returning to my vehicle, I opened the door and settled into the driver’s seat that always felt like it was hugging me. As I leaned over to store my purchased stamps in the glove compartment, the car suddenly jerked back with a bang. Popping my head up above the dashboard I saw the car parked in front of me pull into traffic and drive away. I quickly jumped out of the car to see what kind of damage had been done. Close to the center the bumper was creased as if something had tried to fold it. The once shiny red paint now had white flakes scattered across it like dandruff. My driver side fog lamp was strewn in pieces on the ground. In that single moment all the joy I got from my new car vanished; I would forever be driving an old auto now. Do not worry, I did catch up to that driver and made him pull over so I could call the police; but the damage had been done. These same negative feelings quickly returned to me as I sat and watched this wreck of an action movie. Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight, The Purge) played former race car driver Brent Magra. When his wife Leanne, played by Rebecca Budig (Guiding Light-TV, All My Children-TV), was kidnapped; Brent was forced to follow the kidnapper’s commands, going on a high speed race against the clock to save his wife. Joining him would be The Kid, played by Selena Gomez (Spring Breakers, Ramona and Beezus). At first glance I thought Smurfette had taken human form as Selena. Hearing her swear was just wrong and her tough talk was laughable. The story made no sense, the car chases looked like they were one scene that was spliced into a continuous loop and it was boring. Trying to find something positive to say about this movie, I enjoyed the story’s locale. I am afraid an emergency road crew could not help this poorly made crime film. If you are looking for some excitement you would be better off going to an auto dearlership and test drive a new vehicle.

 

1 1/5 stars

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