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Flash Movie Review: Assassination Nation

IF YOU ARE LIKE ME AS I believe many of you are in this respect, you don’t like spending your money on something that winds up not giving you satisfaction. I cannot tell you how many times I have read a glowing restaurant review, gone to the place and wound up disliking what I ordered. In this type of scenario, I am more disappointed than upset and willing to give them another try if everything else about the place was a positive experience. What annoys me to no end is buying some product that does not perform as advertised. Several years ago, I bought a bookcase I saw in a catalog. I knew I would have to assemble it, but I was willing to do it since it was exactly the style I wanted to get. When the box came I was surprised that it was not as heavy as I had expected it to be. Taking out the pieces to put together, I discovered the wood used was extremely light in weight, either some type of pressed board or plywood. As I was tightening one of the screws, it made a split in the wood I had to glue back together. To say I was upset would be an understatement.     WHAT I FIND MORE TROUBLING IS the number of items being made today that are of a poorer quality. It is as if everyone is making disposable products that are not built to last. A friend of mine bought air filters; when he unpacked and tried to install them into his humidifier they did not fit. Somehow the dimensions were off rendering them useless. Another friend of mine bought a coffee table from a furniture store. The first time they delivered the table it had a crack in it. The 2ndtable they delivered had a stain on the marble and get this, customer service told her that it was just the natural colorization of the marble. They were not going to take the coffee table back until she threatened to get the Better Business Bureau involved, can you believe it?!?! With everything going up in price, it goes without saying, each of us expects to get something for our money. Even at the grocery store, I use the store’s app that is supposed to automatically discount certain items when they get scanned at the checkout counter. More times than not it doesn’t discount the item; I then must go to customer service to have them refund me the difference. I should have done the same thing and asked for a refund at the movie theater, when I saw this action, crime comedy film.      WHEN PERSONAL EMAIL ACCOUNTS ARE GETTING hacked and exposed for all to see, the townsfolk band together to look for the culprit. They wanted to administer their own version of justice. This film festival nominated movie starred Odessa Young (Looking for Grace, The Daughter) as Lily, Hari Nef (Mapplethorpe, Transparent-TV) as Bex, Suki Waterhouse (Insurgent, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Sarah, Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls, For Colored Girls) as Nance and newcomer Abra as Em. On some level I believe I understood what the writers were trying to do with this story. I could see where they were making a statement about mob mentality, obsessions, electronic dependence and a generation’s culture; but, the presentation in this film was excruciating to watch. Maybe this was a dark, comedic satire but because I lost interest as the story unfolded I did not care. There was blood and violence that turned me off further. I saw some advertisements that mentioned this film is in the same vein as Heathers and The Purge; I wish I could purge my memory of this picture and get my money back.

 

1 ½ stars      

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Flash Movie Review: Searching

AS A RULE OF THUMB, whenever I am having a discussion with someone who has an opposing view, I like to ask them what they heard me say. It is amazing how I may feel I explained something perfectly, but the person heard it differently. This is the beauty of having a face to face conversation; you can hear the inflection in their voice and get visual clues to the intent of their words. With more people communicating via electronic devices I feel I may miss what a person is trying to tell me. I wound up in a conversation with a relative that was done completely on a social media platform. Both of us wound up misunderstanding each other where I was left feeling hurt. On top of it, I was concerned other people would gain access to our conversation since it was all done electronically. Two things that come to mind: embarrassing and nobody’s business. Since that time, I promised myself I would not get into a war of words with anyone unless I could see their face. There is too much that can be misconstrued or lost in translation through the internet.      I WAS RECENTLY CONTACTED BY ONE of my social media accounts and had to prove to them I was me. Considering the variety of unusual names I have seen on accounts, I had no idea why after several years they suddenly wanted confirmation from my account. Maybe I am incorrect in my thinking, but I figured they have the capability to see ever keystroke on my account and the ones that I comment on; why did they suddenly feel I was an imposter? Don’t get me wrong, I do not mind a company verifying their users. With so much fraud and fake individuals I have little trust with most things I see on the internet. I am sure there is even more underhanded things taking place that I am unaware of; I find it scary. From the little exposure I have had with friends of mine who are in IT, I really do not know if there truly is a website that is 100% safe and secure. It seems as if anything can be manipulated online to appear a certain way. I know at work we were taught to closely check the spelling in an email sent from an unfamiliar site. Evidently scammers from other countries may not fully grasp the nuances of another language and misspell a word or use an idiom incorrectly.  Doesn’t it seem like it all comes down to communication and this dramatic, mystery thriller will show you a variety of ways.      WHEN HIS DAUGHTER MARGOT, PLAYED by relative newcomer Michelle La, was not returning any of his calls; David Kim, played by John Cho (Star Trek franchise, Harold & Kumar franchise), filed a missing person’s report. The first thing the detective told him was to check Margot’s computer. David could not believe what he had found. With Debra Messing (The Women, Will & Grace-TV) as Detective Vick, Joseph Lee (Lion, Nerve) as Peter and Sara Sohn (Furious 7, Sense8-TV) as Pamela Nam Kim; this film festival winner told its entire story through social media sites and texts. I honestly thought I would dislike this way of telling a story; but I must tell you, it worked to the story’s advantage. Going from texts to FaceTime to YouTube to email became seamless for me. I found the script riveting and thoroughly enjoyed the acting from everyone. The story could easily be in today’s headlines which only made it more gripping to watch in my opinion. This was a novel and fresh way to do a movie and of all people, look who enjoyed watching it; me, the man who still has a landline in his house.

 

3 ¼ stars

Flash Movie Review: Unfriended: Dark Web

I DO NOT KNOW WHY I thought of it; but as I watched my friend typing away on his computer keyboard, it reminded me of playing with building blocks. He is a graphic artist so already I am in awe of his computer skills. Looking at the computer screen he was moving things from one side to the other, manipulating photos and graphic designs. There was something about the images moving around the screen that I found mesmerizing. I can barely copy and paste so I was impressed with his masterful computer skills. He is not the only one I admire for I know a photographer who relies on his computer to enhance and create stunning photographs. His specialty is weddings and I must tell you his work is amazing. We were at the same wedding; I was a guest and he was the photographer. We both were seeing the same things; but when he was done manipulating the photos he shot, it looked like he was at a wedding from an alternative universe. I knew the people in the photos, but the settings were different. Colors were added or removed; light sources were enhanced or subdued just enough to change the viewer’s focus, creating a whole new visual environment.     WHEN IT COMES TO THE CREATIVE wonders and helpfulness computers offer, I am totally supportive of it. However, I am aware there is another side to computers and its users. Roughly once a week I get a suspicious email at the office. Some are obvious with their misspelled words, but others are more sophisticated that look authentic. Unless I know who sent the email I will not open it, forwarding it instead to the MIS department to investigate and decide if it is safe. I may think my knowledge of illicit and illegal activity on a computer is up to date, but I am sure I only know a sliver of the scams that currently take place. In fact, recently a friend of mine told me about a customer who was having an emotional relationship with someone he met online. Pictures were exchanged, and little gifts were sent to each other during their “courtship.” After several weeks the customer received an email that the woman was in a car accident and needed $2000.00 to cover medical costs. This gentleman wired her the funds (I know I cannot believe it either). A week later the woman emailed she needed $15,000 to cover legal fees in her lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident. What I just told you is nothing compared to the creepy computer story that took place in this horror sequel.      WHEN MATIAS, PLAYED BY COLIN WOODELL (Unsane, The Neighbor), discovers mysterious files on his new computer; he soon realizes he is one click away from a different reality. With Rebecca Rittenhouse (The Mindy Project-TV, Red Band Society-TV) as Serena, Betty Gabriel (Get Out, The Purge: Election Year) as Nari, Chelsea Alden (American Horror Story-TV, Get Spy-TV) as Kelly and Andrew Lees (The Originals-TV, Rescue Special Ops-TV) as Damon; I cannot stress how creeped out I was with the story in this film. Despite starting out slow the script eventually turned sinister and I found myself feeling uncomfortable with what I was watching on the screen. The reason being I assumed the things taking place in the movie could really happen in our daily lives. The picture itself was nothing great; I found it to be repetitive. There was suspense in some of the scenes but several of them bordered on ridiculous. The thing that kept me captured was the idea that what I was witnessing could easily happen to any of us and it scared me.

 

1 ¾ stars

Flash Movie Review: Men, Women & Children

Deep within the Amazon Jungle I saw a pair of dark, wide eyes peering out at me through dense, overflowing foliage. A separate time I was able to revisit Florence Italy where I had climbed up to the top of Il Duomo di Firenza, the main church of the city. Friends have told me about their ability to see the birth of a child from across the country. They have also told me some of their horror stories involving deceitful people. In the news recently I heard how retail chains were hacked and their customers’ charge card information was stolen.I did not have to listen because I already knew about it when my credit card information was stolen. Until the credit card company called me to verify a purchase that was being done in a different state from where I lived, I had no idea someone had grabbed my information. All of the things I have mentioned so far were made possible by the internet. Ah yes, the internet; where it can take you to far remote spots of the world to witness the discovery of a rare plant, while its evil side robs you of your identity while you sleep. For me, using the internet is akin to relating to someone with a split personality disorder; it can be so rewarding, yet extremely challenging.    PEOPLE have to constantly adjust the way they relate to each other due to the power of the internet. Writer/director Jason Reitman (Juno, Labor Day) assembled a large cast of actors for this drama based on the novel, about the twists and turns people must navigate in their daily lives due to the accessibility of the internet. A few of the actors in this film were Adam Sandler (Blended, That’s My Boy) and Rosemarie DeWitt (The Watch, Rachel Getting Married) who played Don and Helen Truby, a married couple looking for something more than they had in their marriage. Jennifer Garner (Draft Day, Dallas Buyers Club) played overprotective mother Patricia Beltmeyer to her daughter Brandy, played by Kaitlyn Dever (Short Term 12, The Spectacular Now). Out of all the actors in this movie the only two that stood out for me were Kaitlyn and Ansel Elgort (Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars) as Tim Mooney. Their story line and acting were the most interesting to me. I found the rest of the cast somewhat dull but considering the script went nowhere it was understandable. For most of this film I sat in my seat being bored. With the absence to a beginning, a middle and defined conclusions to the different story lines I felt I was only seeing bits and pieces of people’s lives; similar to mindlessly surfing the internet for hours.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Sex Tape

More than likely it is not its intentions, but life’s daily requirements can put an added burden on living. It can be tough on one person; however, if there are more people involved it can be harder. I have seen and been a victim to the aftermath of a relationship that suffered under the weight of life’s pressures. Some people can lose motivation and become lethargic. They may become depressed, feeling as if they are running on a torturous racetrack without an exit ramp. No matter how in love two people are, there is always a big adjustment when they form a union and begin to share responsibilities. It is similar to living in a balloon where the two of you are working hard to keep it inflated with your dreams, aspirations and hopes; but the outside world keeps demanding too much time from you and with you being occupied, your balloon begins to show signs of soft loose wrinkles. I now know going into a relationship my hectic schedule presents an immediate challenge. My class time depletes the finite amount of free time I have available to socialize. This is why I feel it is extra important to communicate and make sure I setup down time where the two of us can come to a place where we can talk, share, express and experience life in a way that adds to our growth.    ANNIE and Jay, played by Cameron Diaz (There’s Something about Mary, The Other Woman) and Jason Segel (This is 40, The Muppets), were at a similar place in their relationship in this comedy film. The energy they wanted to devote to each other was being used towards their jobs and children, leaving little time to be romantic. To help in that department, Annie and Jay came up with the idea to film themselves being romantic; but a screwup made their lovemaking public on the internet. The mortified couple would have to go to extreme measures if they wanted to keep their dignity. Here is an instance where the movie trailer tells it all. Though the setup to the movie was good, nothing else was offered but a series of stunts to garner a laugh. I chuckled at a couple of things, but I did not find anything different or original to make me laugh. Rob Lowe (The Invention of Lying, The West Wing-TV) as Hank was the most fun character out of the cast. If you feel this movie will offer you some relief from your daily grind then by all means go see it; personally, I would find a better diversion.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Don Jon

The music has to be just right before I will use it. I can visualize what movements would match the tempo of the songs. No eating at least 2 hours before because I do better on an empty stomach. In my mind I can see how I want the room set up so it would be inviting. As I go over everything I feel confidant and excited. No matter how perfect I imagine it will be, it will not matter because everything is dependent on who is participating. When I am a guest presenter at a different health club I can plan every single detail of how I want the class to be. The exercises I planned may be perfect for me; but it may not work for the members, that is just the reality of teaching a group fitness class. Being somewhat of a control freak, this used to throw me for a loop. The fact is a fantasy is just that, a fantasy. It is a lesson New Jersey native Jon Martello Jr., played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, Mysterious Skin), could learn. When Jon started seeing Barbara, played by Scarlett Johansson (Hitchcock, We Bought a Zoo), it was not the same as the women he would watch online. For a first effort Joseph did an admirable job as writer, director and star of this comedic drama. Those of you concerned about the content of this film; the story was more than just about a man who loves looking at, shall we say, special web sites. From a visual standpoint there was no gratuitous bare scenes with any of the actors. As for the pictures on the web sites Jon perused; they were sanitized, hyper images that briefly flashed across the screen. The script was amusing with an earthy charm to it. The family conversations were priceless between Jon and his parents Jon Sr. and Angela, played by Tony Danza (Crash, Who’s the Boss-TV) and Glenne Headly (Mr. Holland’s Opus, The Namesake). I loved Scarlett in her role; she was perfectly cast. The wonderful Julianne Moore (What Maisie Knew, Chloe) played Esther, a character that added a different element to the story. I found the shift in the story came up abruptly; I would have appreciated more groundwork to the unfolding developments. Joseph Gordon-Levitt had a good eye for directing; the scenes were crisp with a steady pace to them. I was already impressed by Joseph’s acting and now this sweet charmer of a movie made me like him even more. There certainly is a gap between reality and fantasy. With the making of this film I hope it became narrower for Joseph; he certainly can be proud of this well done movie.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Catfish

Knowledge, love and dreams are a few things one can gain from computers. Learning the definition of a new word or finding an exotic locale for a dream vacation is a couple of examples of what a person can find. I have a love/hate relationship with my computer. Being told how great they are, I do not understand why my computer cannot figure out what I want it to do without asking me questions. With all the news I hear about identity theft and fake charities; I have become fearful of any emails I receive from unfamiliar senders. My limited knowledge of computers does not help matters. I do know there is a dark side to computers, especially when the computer operator has hidden intentions. My fears were stoked by this documentary that played more like a mystery story. New York photographer/producer Yaniv “Nev” Schulman received a package containing a reproduction in paint of a photograph he had published. The artist was Abby, an eight year old girl who lived in Michigan. From that initial contact an online business relationship began through Facebook, where Nev eventually was introduced to Abby’s family. Her older sister Megan took an interest in Nev and the two began to develop feelings for each other through their email exchanges. This documentary followed Nev’s blossoming affection for Megan and her intriguing family with its young prodigy. Directors Henry Joost (Paranormal 3 & 4) and Ariel “Rel” Schulman (Paranormal 3 & 4), recorded Nev (Ariel’s brother) as his increasing emotional attachment to the family motivated him to go out and meet them in person. I do not believe I need to tell you anything further about this film; I am sure you get the picture. With clues being left like bread crumbs; my attention was grabbed from the start, curious to see what would happen to Nev. Several scenes took on the aura of a modern day Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson collaboration, thanks to the directors’ style. Ultimately the story is a product of our times. I have not gone to the internet to learn more about this emotional story. Computers scare me more now.

 

3 1/4 stars — DVD

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