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Flash Movie Review: The Art of Self-Defense

WHEN I HEAR ABOUT AN ALTERCATION that took place in the city, I shudder when I see the victim was doing something I used to do. And when I say something, it literally refers to nothing unusual; for example, me just walking to my car. There was a period where I would go down into the city to the dance clubs and bars. Now you might think this was strange for me since I did not drink alcohol, but I wanted to dance and watch music videos. Sometimes I would drive, other times I would take public transportation. Depending on how the evening was going I could be dancing at the club until they closed, or I could be there for an hour before making my way home. My point is I might be walking alone to my car at 3 in the morning. I knew to be cautious or at least aware of my surroundings, but I was not fearful. Granted, on side streets I would always walk down the middle of them. Riding public transportation never was a concern for me. Whether I was on a bus or train, I never thought something could go wrong; at least, not to the extent I read and see in the news.      MAYBE I WAS LUCKY THAT NOTHING befell me back then; however, there were several times when I was scared. Once while walking down the street in the afternoon a guy came up to me and asked for a cigarette. When I said I didn’t smoke he started yelling and calling me names. I tried to walk away but he kept shoving me. Not until he pushed me into a plate glass window did he take off running. I used to replay that scene over and over in my head, imagining different endings where I would come out victorious. Another time I was walking to my car after dinner and noticed a small group of teenagers walking towards me. I made a quick decision and turned into a building’s walkway, despite not knowing where it would lead. Luckily, I wound up in the alley just as I heard their laughter echoing out from the walkway. Quickly I ran down the alley until I found another walkway through a building that lead me back to the street, where I ran all the way to my car. Again, as I made my way home I fantasized different scenarios where I was a boxer or martial arts expert who quickly subdued my assailants into submission…or unconsciousness. The only difference between me and the main character in this dramatic comedy is I never acted on it.      AFTER BEING MUGGED BY A MOTORCYCLE gang Casey, played by Jesse Eisenberg (The End of the Tour, The Social Network), looked for a way to defend himself. He found his answer at a karate school. With Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle, Disobedience) as Sensei, Imogen Poots (Green Room, Frank & Lola) as Anna, Steve Terada (Crank, Memoirs of a Geisha) as Thomas and Phillip Andre Botello (Pledge, Road Wars) as Kenneth; this film festival nominated movie was wickedly dark, violent and funny. At first, I felt Jesse was doing a repeat of some of his previous roles, but he hit the mark as a timid man on the spectrum. At least I took him to be a person on the spectrum. I am a little familiar with Alessandro’s work and I especially admired him in this role as the owner and head of the karate school. Between my laughter and shock there were a few bumps in the road inside the script, where it became predictable. However, I was enjoying the performances too much to let the predictability bother me. Again, I want to stress this was a real dark comedy with blood and violence. Despite it, I did wonder what would have happened to me if I had joined a karate school.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Frank & Lola

LOVE, when it is expressed, can be one of the purest and strongest emotions. At least that is what it can be depending on the person. When an individual falls in love they can find themselves smiling for no apparent reason or getting giddy with excitement in anticipation of being with the source of their love. Some people love going to the circus; they get to experience a range of emotions from the varied acts on display. Other people get in touch with their sense of love when they are able to hike up a mountain trail then sit out on the edge of a precipice. Another thing love can do is steer you away from your daily routines and venture into new territory, exploring the ways 2 people can blend their individual lives into a shared common one.   HOWEVER when a person sacrifices their other emotions and rational thoughts to focus strictly on love, they then have entered the land of the extremes. In this place a person scrutinizes every action, comment and reaction from the focus of their love. In turn they react in an extreme way to the point of becoming obsessive. I was in a relationship some time ago where things started out in an easy way for us. We seemed compatible and had similar tastes in things. As the weeks went by little things started cropping up that I found odd. For example a delay in us getting together due to a prior commitment I had would produce a passive aggressive response in an attempt to make me feel guilty, hoping I would change my plans. This was a red flag for me and a cause of concern. Maybe if my ego was inflated I would have enjoyed the attention and their need to be with me; instead, it caused a disconcerting feeling inside of me. My instincts turned out to be correct. I was being turned into this desired object that they needed to feel fulfilled and complete in their life. Obsession can be a lethal road for one to travel on.   FRANK, played by Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals, Midnight Special), was falling deeper in love with Lola, played by Imogen Poots (Green Room, Need for Speed), to the point where even warning signs could not influence him. This film festival nominated drama also starred Justin Long (Drag Me to Hell, Accepted) as Keith and Michael Nyqvist (John Wick, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Alan. It was interesting to see Michael playing a romantic lead. He is an excellent actor and in this crime mystery he was good, but I have to tell you I felt he was not the best choice for the role. The intensity he has displayed in previous movies did not translate well in this one. Set in Las Vegas and Paris, I was initially interested with the story line and thought the acting was good throughout the film. One of the reasons why I did not feel totally connected to the story was the lack of back story or depth with the Frank and Lola characters. I could see what the writer was trying to do but it did not take me where I needed to be to truly get into the story. I love movies but I did not love watching this one much.

 

2 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Green Room

The room was quiet and dark but I woke with a start as if someone had their hands around my neck, squeezing it tight. There were few if any shadows in the room yet everything looked crystal clear to me. I sprung out of bed as my lungs started yearning for air. My brain was bouncing off the sides of my skull as I ran into the bathroom to look at myself in the mirror. I do not know why or where that thought came from but I was quickly becoming frantic as I could not take a breath in. Looking at my reflection I opened my mouth wide to see if there was something that formed during the night in the middle of my throat that prevented me from breathing. I did not find anything unusual there. The past few days I had a head cold that I was just letting run its course; but I never experienced anything like this before. I was scared and all I could think of was if I collapse on the bathroom floor how long would it take for someone to find me. My ears were buzzing with noise as my lungs felt like they were about to rip open. As quickly as that vice around my neck appeared it suddenly disappeared, allowing me to deeply take in precious oxygen. What the heck had just happened? I could not go back to sleep after that and spent the rest of the night sitting up in a chair until I could call the doctor. This was the closest I had ever felt to death and it was frightening.   PERFORMING at a bar in a secluded, off the beaten path, woodsy area; the band performing had no idea how tough the audience really could be. This film festival winner had a spot-on ominous look to it. With Anton Yelchin (Star Trek franchise, Fright Night) as Pat, Alia Shawkat (Three Kings, Whip It) as Sam, Imogen Poots (Need for Speed, Filth) as Amber and Patrick Stewart (X-Men franchise, Match) as Darcy; the cast did a solid job in lifting the script up in this horror thriller. The story had a generic base but the writer added on top of it a chilling crime flavored plot that kept my interest. Even when bloody violent scenes were being shown, I still kept watching because the two opposing sides came across truthfully. I appreciated the fact that this story did not have fantasy killers or bizarre characters; everything shown was plausible to me. Having been a fan of Patrick Stewart for some years, I especially thought it was brilliant to cast him for the role of Darcy and I do not want to tell you anything further about his character. I will say though I thought there could have been more intensity with his role; however, that is just my personal opinion. From watching this movie I absolutely understand why people will do anything to stay alive. Several scenes had blood and violence in them.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Jimi: All is by My Side

I have been fortunate to have met several noteworthy individuals in my life, mostly on a statewide level. There were however a few famous celebrities I have seen, just never had the chance to actually talk to them. In regards to myself, I have no aspirations of being famous. My only hope is to get through this life without hurting anyone’s feelings. This does not mean I do not want to be part of a historical event, however. One of my dreams is to be sitting in the audience at the Oscar Awards telecast. If I were to break my desire down to a more basic level, one of the reasons I love traveling to different places is so if they wind up in the news I can say I was there; I was at the place they were talking about. For whatever reason, I get great pleasure in being able to say this. Imagine being at an event, whether it is cultural, sporting or on an international scale and something extraordinary takes place that will be talked about, to be remembered by future generations. I do not know about you but I would love to be part of that convergence of remarkable, famous, historical, life changing and any other adjective one could think of events.    BURSTING into our conscience at the 1987 Monterey Pop Festival Jimi Hendrix, played by Andre Benjamin (Idlewood, Battle in Seattle), was something new and different in the musical world. With his dominance over his guitar playing and his cool funky look, maybe some but not all fans at the festival realized they were going to be witnessing history. Having only seen film clips of Jimi’s performances, I was looking forward to seeing this musical biography. Andre was so cool and gifted in this role. I do not know if it was a spot on performance of Jimi per se; but it sure came across the movie screen as believable. The whole retro look of this drama played well with some of the actors such as Imogen Poots (That Awkward Moment, Need for Speed) as Linda Keith and Hayley Atwell (The Duchess, Captain America franchise) as Kathy Etchingham; besides being fun to watch on a visual level. Where this film failed was the screenplay. The entire movie felt like it was trying to cram in as much as they could in the chosen time frame and all it wound up doing was providing snippets of Jimi’s life with little substance. I never felt connected to the characters which led me to periodically being bored. It would not matter if you are a fan of his type of music or not, the movie intended to show the beginnings of a musical genius. Unfortunately it never reached iconic proportions of its musical star.

 

2 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: A Long Way Down

No one has the right to tell you how you should feel is one of my strongest mantras. Among all the individuals within the circles of connections in my life, everyone knows there is no reason to cover-up, modify or hide one’s feelings. If someone is in a foul mood, so be it. I am not one to offer platitudes like “things will get better” or “it will be a brighter day soon.” When I am sad or depressed I certainly do not want someone around trying to cheer me up. I just want someone to be accepting and understand this is how I am feeling right at the moment. The phrase “misery loves company” comes to mind and there is some truth in it. I have noticed a stronger connection forms between 2 people when they are commiserating about similar circumstances. It is true for me when my friends and I are at a concert or on a trip, shared excitement only accentuates the experience. The same holds true during a somber or sad experience. It all comes down to the ability to relate to another being, to know there is someone else who is feeling the same way as you.    COINCIDENTALLY, the four individuals in this comedic drama accidentally discovered they were each feeling the same way with the same idea. It was New Year’s Eve and expecting to be alone Martin, Maureen, Jess and JJ; played by Pierce Brosnan (Love is All You Need, The Ghost), Toni Collette (The Way Way Back, Little Miss Sunshine), Imogen Poots (Jane Eyre, That Awkward Moment) and Aaron Paul (Need for Speed, Breaking Bad-TV); all found themselves on the top of a high-rise building at the same time with plans to jump off the roof. Instead of ending their lives that night, they form an unusual pact to help support each other through their troubled times. Based on the novel by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy), believe it or not this film offered a few amusing moments. The subject may be morbid for some; but I found the script did a decent job of handling the subject matter, mixing doses of lightheartedness with darkness. Though the acting was this movie’s strongest feature, it could not help save this dramedy. I found the story jumped around too much, never allowing time to offer further explanation to the scenes. With things coming across piecemeal, the story never fully developed and fell flat. Not that I expect you to agree with me on every one of my movie reviews, but I feel comfortable there will be many who will feel the same way I do after they see this film.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Need for Speed

If you would have asked me several years ago if I was a vengeful person I would have said yes. It was not something that made me proud, especially since I was not mature about it, letting it flame out of me as a way to cover up my hurt feelings. An example would be if someone broke my trust; I would want to hurt them as much as I felt they hurt me. I cannot say there was one thing that triggered a change in me; maybe the realization I no longer wanted to give my energy away to someone who did not deserve it. Instead of going into attack mode I can now express my feelings and if need be walk away while not giving that individual another thought. This would not be the case if I felt I needed to right a wrong, however. Being a big believer in actions speaking louder than words, I could not fault the main character in this action drama from righting a wrong done to him. Aaron Paul (The Last House on the Left, Breaking Bad-TV) played Tobey Marshall. After being sent to prison for a crime he did not commit, Tobey would ride across the country to enter a racing contest just so he could compete against the man who had set him up. Based on the popular video game, the main stars of this crime film were the automobiles. Aaron who twice won an Emmy for his performance in Breaking Bad was horrible as the leading character. Topping his poor performance was an actor I have had high regard for, Dominic Cooper (The Devil’s Due, The Duchess) who played racing car driver Dino Brewster. Not all the fault should be placed on them because the script and direction were the real problems that made this a dull film. Though the driving and racing scenes were good and well orchestrated, I thought the driving was better in the Fast & Furious movie franchise. Imogen Poots (That Awkward Moment, Fright Night) as Julia Maddon and Michael Keaton (RoboCop, First Daughter) as Monarch had more life in their characters, though Michael seemed to be channeling his Beetlejuice character a bit. As an overall movie watching experience, I always cheer for the underdog character and like to see justice being served; but when the cars are acting better than the cast, I felt this film was a quart low in being entertaining. I also want to add there is no reason to see this film in 3D. An extra scene can be seen after the short first set of credits at the end of the film.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: A Late Quartet

They say music soothes the savage beast. I beg to differ, music can do much more. There is some music that affects me on a physical level, where I get the urge to tap my foot or shake my hips. Then there is certain musical pieces where I feel as if I am being transported along a winding road with sloping curves and gentle hills. I have certain songs associated to special occasions that have occurred throughout my life. For example, I have a pop song that reminds me of my trip to the Badlands every time I hear it. Then there is the song I played repeatedly when I was a child that brings back memories of me playing on our back porch on a warm sunny day. As music has always been important to me, so was it in this dramatic movie. A famous string quartet struggled to stay together when resentments, love and illness came to light. It seems as if this is the year of Christopher Walken (Seven Psychopaths, The Maiden Heist) who played Peter Mitchell, the eldest member of the quartet. He was excellent playing a vulnerable, emotional widower. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master, Moneyball) can always be counted on giving his characters life, which he fully did as Robert Gelbart in this movie. I have enjoyed Catherine Keener’s (Into the Wild, The Interpreter) past performances; however, I felt she was not fully utilized as Juliette Gelbart. Though the acting was well done, I felt the story veered off into a sub story that was less interesting for me. If the writers would have kept their focus on the group dynamices and go deeper into each character, the movie would have been better. It would have been nice if there was more music being played to get through the boring parts.

 

2 2/3 stars

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