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Flash Movie Review: Stronger

THE HARDER AND LOUDER the weights are dropped on the floor, the more the weightlifter wants you to be aware of their “incredible” strength. Whether they use barbells, dumbbells or just weight plates; I find the releasing of weights in midair perplexing. It is not like they are at the Olympics and lifting massive amounts or metal. They are at a fitness center and sure it might be a large amount of weight they are lifting; but seriously, if you cannot safely bring the weights down to the floor then in my opinion it is too much weight for you. These are my own observations; please do not consider this the standard. From what I have witnessed, when a person makes a loud sound from letting go of the weight load they want attention drawn to them. I have seen them looking into the mirror to see how their muscles look after a big lift, but they also are seeing if anyone else is noticing them.     THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES of strength. Some people focus only on increasing their physical strength. To me this is the easiest one because all that is required are some forms of weight bearing exercises. Doing a pushup, walk while carrying a bag of groceries, bicep curls using canned vegetables from the pantry even; all of these will help. The harder strength to me is the mental one. I find if a person cannot muster the mental strength to take on a task there is a good chance of not completing the task or total failure. Mental strength did not come easy for me. Years of believing the things I was being called detoured my personal growth. I think what helped me was my natural stubbornness. If there was something I wanted I would not give up until I was completely exhausted. Nothing overt necessarily but a slow and steady determination was how I started handling the tasks presented to me. Whether it is an item off of one’s “to do” list or preparing for major surgery, the mind needs to be nourished and focused in a positive way to make gains in one’s life. A perfect example of this can be seen in this drama inspired by true events.     TRYING TO WIN OVER his on and off girlfriend Jeff Bauman, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals, Southpaw), chose to wait for her at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, just before the bombs went off. This biographical real life story succeeded on many levels. Topmost was the cast which also included Tatiana Maslany (Eastern Promises, Woman in Gold) as Erin Hurley, Miranda Richardson (Empire of the Sun, Churchill) as Patty Bauman and Lenny Clarke (Fever Pitch, Rescue Me-TV) as Uncle Bob. I have to tell you Jake was superhuman; that is the only thing I can say. Trying to figure out what it took to portray survivor Jeff Bauman had to be something short of a miracle; he was outstanding. The movie was hard to watch since it was reenacting the events of the 2013 bombing; there may have been actual footage used in parts. It was and continues to be an amazing story; there was never a moment where I felt the writers were trying to manipulate the viewer or fall into dramatic clichés. After sitting through this picture I have a whole new appreciation for the term, “Boston Strong.”

 

3 ½ stars

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: Life

YEARS of reading and watching science fiction books and movies may be the reason why I believe there could be other life forms in the universe. Even if I was not a fan of the fantasy/science fiction genre, I was always open to the possibility we humans were not alone. I could never be convinced that out of the entire universe the planet Earth was the only place that could sustain life. One of the arguments I have heard is our planet is the only one that can sustain oxygen breathing beings; but I would counter that proposal by questioning the logic of oxygen being the only element that can support life. What if an alien species’ anatomy only needed carbon monoxide to exist? Unless they come to us I understand there is no way to prove this thought, since I do not know if we will ever evolve to a point where we will have the ability to deconstruct and rematerialize on another world via a transporting device or be able to travel in a spaceship at warp speed.     DURING my studies in college I had a literature course that covered several genres of fiction, including science fiction. For my midterm project I used several rolls of infrared film along with close-up camera lenses to create a photo album that I claimed was proof of foreign existence. The things I photographed represented places we had read about in our required reading list. Our instructor had us put our projects on display around the lecture hall and each of us had to explain what we had done. After we each gave our talks, the students were allowed to walk around and study each item before voting on their favorite in a secret ballot. It turned out not only did I get an “A” on my midterm project but my alien photo album was voted the favorite. From some of the comments I received the majority of my classmates loved how I had shown both friendly and non-friendly aliens. Hopefully I am only right about the good aliens.     WORKING in precise maneuvers six astronauts must retrieve a satellite returning from Mars that might contain proof there may be life existing on another planet. This science fiction thriller had some intense, exciting scenes right from the start. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals, Prisoners) as David Johnson, Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, The Proposal) as Rory Adams, Hiroyuki Sanada (47 Ronin, The Wolverine) as Sho Murakami and Rebecca Ferguson (The Girl on the Train, Florence Foster Jenkins) as Miranda North; this horror film had some icky scenes that were hard to watch, involving blood and violence. I thought the sets and special effects were cool, while the actors did their job well. The idea of the story was fine; however, I felt the writers needed to take a different angle because as I sat watching this film I kept thinking about the movie Alien. I did not find much different in this movie though I did enjoy the surprise twists. What I did enjoy, maybe enjoy is not the right word, was the way the writers depicted life and that is all I can say about it. If you do not believe there may be extraterrestrial life, you may not be anxious to see this film. Based on my belief system, maybe you should see it.

 

2 1/3 stars    

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Nocturnal Animals

THE talk I was hearing from people was this place had things “to die for” throughout the store. I decided I would check it out since the place covered one of my favorite food categories: desserts. Walking into the bakery with its fancy, carved wooden doors with stained glass panes; I immediately fell into a swoon from the overwhelming smell of baked goods. From a piping hot smell as if the ovens were exhaling cinnamon breaths to the aroma of roasted nuts wafting in the air like a low morning fog; there was too much for my eyes and nostrils to take in with one pass. The prospects looked mighty good that I had entered into a little slice of heaven. To my left was a glass case with three shelves filled with loaves of bread. Not your standard fare, these loaves had a variety of different looks to them. Some were a rich dark brown with shiny crusts while others had various seeds, nuts and fruit pieces covering their tops looking like those photos of rough terrain one would see in a friend’s photos from a national park.   AS for the cakes they literally looked like works of art. There was a cocoa frosted cake that had an abstract design made out of candy coated chocolate pieces across each side. On the top were white and chocolate ribbons that had depth to them so they looked like knotted twine. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement, especially when I came upon an entire case filled with cookies; the perfect food item in my opinion. No mess, no crumbs, no evidence of them ever being missed. After 30 minutes I made my selections and walked out of the bakery, laden with packages. Once home everything was set for me to experience these exquisite morsels of bliss. The first cookie I tried had an interesting taste; the 2nd one I tried had an unexpected flavor I did not find enjoyable. Moving on to a mini-cake I took a slice and bit into it. It was good but nothing special. My heart was sinking as my disappointment was rising.   LONG divorced from her husband Susan Morrow, played by Amy Adams (Arrival, Big Eyes), was surprised to receive a copy of his new book that was dedicated to her. The story would turn into a disturbing read for Susan. This film festival winning dramatic thriller also starred Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, Southpaw) as Tony Hastings/Edward Sheffield and Michael Shannon (Elvis & Nixon, Midnight Special) as Bobby Andes. The three of them were perfect in their roles. Written and directed by designer and creative director Tom Ford (A Single Man), the look of this film was picture perfect. Everything was in its place and each scene looked complete with style. The script was a story within a story where I found myself more attracted to the book’s story. There was more strength in it compared to Susan’s current life; In other words I felt more life coming out of them. This film was certainly a polished piece of work that just needed a little more work below the surface.

 

2 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Demolition

Slowly you remove yourself from the warmth you were lovingly lying next to, to give them a couple of extra minutes of sleep before the start of their day. You did not even think about the clothes you have at the dry cleaners because they will be hanging in your closet when you get home that night from work. When the two of you are out at a restaurant, you do not have to ask the waitstaff to remove the veggies you do not like from your salad; your significant other will take them without having to be asked. The two of you have an easy symbiotic relationship. Not that you take each other for granted, but the daily things that transpire between you two become their own type of routine. It is sad to say, but it is not until you no longer are a couple that you realize the extra wonderful things that made your relationship so special. I do not mean to paint this in a bad light; but I have found it is the small things that take place between two people that re-enforce the glue which keeps both in a relationship. It is part of the support system each one has created in unison and like anything that occurs on a constant schedule, it may appear less special and sweet as it fades into a routine. This is one of the reasons that I have always insisted on keeping up a date night so the two of us can break out of our daily routines to focus on each other. Not only do I understand but I have experienced what it feels like when that special love is no longer with you.    SUCCESSFUL investment banker Davis, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Source Code, Nightcrawler), only began to realize what he was missing after his wife was killed in a tragic automobile accident. This film festival winning comedic drama also included Naomi Watts (While we’re Young, The Impossible) as Karen, Chris Cooper (Adaptation, American Beauty) as Davis’ father-in-law and Judah Lewis (Point Break) as Chris. Though the acting was good I found the script to be dismal though in a way this played to Jake’s strengths. I do not even know if I would classify this movie as part comedy. There was nothing in it that I found funny. Now there were several opportunities to create impressive dramatic scenes but they tended to fall short. Also, I usually do not notice but this time I thought Jake’s shower scenes were unnecessary and wondered if they were inserted for eye candy value. The other odd thing I found was the lack of time awareness. I became aware to the fact that he wasn’t working yet these different events were taking place with him over time. For some reason this stood out for me. The idea behind this story was interesting and the script had some valid points; however, I did not connect to this film, nor did I miss it after it was over.

 

1 ¾ stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Everest

The first thing one notices is the air feels different, a fresher smell unlike the cloying scents from air fresheners. It seems more spacious with odorous wisps filled with childhood memories of jumping into piles of leaves and water sprinklers. Traveling higher the landscape reveals ancient scars deeply etched into its face, some are dry while others have rushing water tumbling down them. If you are standing in the right place on a sunny day you may see the appearance of a rainbow floating in the mist coming off the water. There is a sense of discovery or more precisely being on a treasure hunt because one could travel undercover for some distant, where the sun’s rays can barely reach you except for the momentarily flash between waving leaves, before stepping out of the darkness to a cliff overseeing a wide valley of sleepy hills under a wheat and green colored blanket. Personally I love exploring this type of terrain…from the comfort of my car. Now before you ask me how I can explore nature while riding around in a car, let me explain. My first two hiking experiences turned me off from physically climbing and scaling rugged territories. The first hike ended with the rocks under my feet dislodging and I tumbled down towards a cliff, my clothes ripping apart on the jagged surface. My second time was hiking on an easier topography, however it was dense with foliage and we lost our way as night fell. We were stuck on the mountain for 4 hours until we finally found our way down by midnight, hungry and cold. Ever since that time I only hike if there is a designated trail to walk or a road to drive on. So for the life of me I could not understand why the people in this adventure thriller wanted to climb Mt. Everest.    BASED on a true story, a group of mountain climbers have the perfect window of opportunity to scale Mt. Everest, unaware a storm is about to take birth. The storm would become one for the record books. This dramatic movie was incredible to watch. The different landscape shots were spectacular. With a cast that included Jason Clarke (Lawless, The Great Gatsby) as Rob Hall, Josh Brolin (Labor Day, Gangster Squad) as Beck Weathers and Thomas M. Wright (Balibo, Van Diemen’s Land) as Michael Groom; the acting was utterly convincing. I do not know how the actors handled the grueling frigid scenes; it looked totally real to me. Putting aside my bewilderment for this type of undertaking, the story really had the potential for creating a powerful movie. However, the script had poor dialog and a smattering of cliches. I know the focus was on the action and this picture really delivered it. I just wished the movie theater had turned up the heat; we were bundled up sitting in our seats.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Southpaw

For those of you fortunate enough never to have experienced a broken heart let me describe how it feels. The area around where the heart is located reacts just as if a physical punch was administered to the body; it hurts like a bad bruise, echoing dull pain over and over. Your center of gravity weighs more where it takes added effort to lift your feet off the ground to even walk across a room. With water making up a majority of the body’s composition, it gets redirected to spill out of your tear ducts at a moment’s notice. Hearing the beginning notes of a song could trigger this outpouring as easily as seeing a newly ownerless toothbrush sitting in your medicine cabinet. Some individuals experience the sense of losing control. I know for myself when I am feeling out of control I tend to focus on one single aspect of my life and hold onto it with a near death grip. My default option is usually my diet. Since no one has a say in what I can or cannot eat, my daily food intake is totally under my domain. In the past when I felt I was out of control my eating would take off as I tried filling the void that formed when control became unharnessed, free to do what it wanted to do. Now it is opposite, the more out of control I feel the more I control what I eat. The main character in this dramatic sports film had a different method.    BOXING champion Billy Hope, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, End of Watch), had the money, the fame and the big house; however, it did not matter when he lost the one thing money could not buy. I need to start with Jake for this review because he deserved extra credit for the grueling workout he put himself through to give extra meat to this role, so to speak. He did 2,000 sit-ups a day and was told by the director, Atoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer), they would continue filming even if his nose got broken in the fight scenes. Now the fight scenes, they were so intense at times I almost had to look away. The cast, which included Rachel McAdams (Aloha, About Time) as Maureen Hope and Oona Laurence (A Little Game, Lamb) as Leila Hope, was especially strong in their own right. Though Jake could snag a nomination for this role, the script was filled with cliches that kept the story from matching his acting abilities. I thought the scenes he had with Forest Whitaker (Taken 3, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) as Tick Wills could have been even more powerful if the script was better. In spite of this big flaw I was so drawn to the character that it carried me through the entire film. Several scenes had blood in them.

 

3 stars 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Nightcrawler

It was due to my youth and innocence that I did not realize what was really going on. The possibility of earning more than my weekly allowance spurred me to join my friends in selling products door to door. It was the summer before my 13th birthday and my training lasted as long as our van ride, that was taking us to a suburb far from the city. The crew leader who was a friend divided us into pairs; I was put with my best friend who had already been working for a couple of months. The owner of the company had explained to us that the products we were selling were made at a school for blind people. Generally the products consisted of household items such as dishrags, toilet brushes and oven mitts. Each item had a printed sticker attached that read, “Products of the Blind.” I had no idea the owner was buying the items from a discount store and placing the stickers on himself. It was my first job; I did not know better. Looking back now I can see telltale signs that something was not right about the owner. He always appeared disheveled with messy hair as if he had slept in his clothes and had not taken a bath. Sure I had seen some of the items at the store, but I assumed the manufacturers gave them to the school for a special price to let the residents attach the labels. Looking back I can say the owner was an unscrupulous piece of work.    DESPERATE for any type of work, Los Angeles native Lou Bloom, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Source Code, Brokeback Mountain), found something enticing when he came upon a traffic accident. Freelance photographers were swarming around the accident victim like sharks as they kept snapping shots that a news agency would be willing to buy. A fast learner without a moral compass, Lou soon discovered a way to increase a photo’s selling price for a willing buyer. Jake was so creepy in this role; the weight loss he endured made his eyes bug out, adding a crazed look to his performance. He will probably earn an Oscar nomination for this role. From writer Dan Gilroy (The Bourne Legacy, The Fall), this was Dan’s first attempt at directing and he created a tense crime thriller. With Rene Russo (Outbreak, The Thomas Crown Affair) as Nina Romina and Riz Ahmed (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Four Lions) playing Rick as part of the cast, they were equally outstanding with their acting. Also, the parallels to our current frenzy to witness immediate reality events did not go unnoticed by me. Despite a few implausible scenes, I found this dramatic movie to be a riveting intense experience that creeped me out. There were multiple scenes that had blood in them.

 

3 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Prisoners

The further technology advances the less personal it becomes is something everyone has heard. From what I have seen I believe it is true. For example, I have noticed a change in people’s reactions to amber alerts. Though everyone still acknowledges such news with sympathy, the feelings do not last long. Driving on the highways it is not uncommon to see an amber alert posted on the electronic signs hanging over the road. For myself, I will take note of the car’s description listed in the message but once I exit the highway the memory fades. With the immediate bombardment of news we get on a daily basis, the significance of each story bleeds into the next until all of it becomes this obscure sea of information that floats outside of us. That is not the case when it comes to this intense crime mystery movie; it brings the story down to a personal level. Hugh Jackman (X-Men franchise, The Prestige) in one of his best roles played Keller Dover, the father of a missing daughter. With his wife Grace, played by Maria Bello (Towelhead, Secret Window) suffering over the loss and Detective Loki’s, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Zodiac, End of Watch), perceived inability to arrest a suspect; Keller would take matters into his own hands, doing whatever it would take to find his daughter. I was totally taken by Hugh’s wide-ranging performance; he was incredible. It was funny, at first I did not understand Jake’s character because I thought the acting was odd from him. But then slowly I began to grasp what Jake was doing and found his interpretation to be quite powerful. It was a different type of character for him and I felt he nailed it. Viola Davis (Won’t Back Down, The Help) as Nancy Birch and Melissa Leo (Frozen River, The Fighter) as Holly Jones were outstanding; Viola does suffering better than almost any other actress I know. The story was not simple; in fact, I feel I need to see this film again to really make some connections I thought I was missing due to some twists. This was a tough, emotional, in your face movie filled with raw emotions, prepare yourself. It is one thing to hear or read about a crime; it is another to see it unfold in front of your eyes. There were several scenes of violence with blood.

 

3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: End of Watch

Breathe, breathe, keep breathing was what I had to keep reminding myself to do through this intense, gritty movie. There were times I was on the edge of my seat from the tense scenes and the mockumentary style of filming interspersed throughout, without the head shaking dizziness. Los Angeles policemen Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Source Code, Love and Other Drugs) and Michael Pena (The Lincoln Lawyer, Crash) were more than partners, they were as close to being brothers as any two men could be. They were young, cocky hotshots working the toughest part of the city; who made some spectacular, newsworthy busts. Things were going great with Officer Taylor dating Janet, played by Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air, 50/50) and Officer Zavala expecting a baby with his wife Gabby, played by Natalie Martinez (Death Race, Magic City Memoirs), when they became targeted by a drug cartel. This movie was one of the best examples of the police film genre I have ever seen. The script was tight, with electrifying tension being cut with stress relief comedic lines. Jake and Michael had killer chemistry between each other, giving this film a true sense of the camaraderie between partners. The acting was incredible; both Michael and Jake went through extensive training for this film and it paid off. They were believable; handling all the police hardware in a fluid, realistic way. I never felt as if the story was copping out (sorry for the pun), there were no neat and tidy scenes included just to please the audience. The movie grabbed you by the throat and forced you to watch ever single frame without any apologies. End of story. Graphic violence and bloody scenes.

 

3 2/3 stars

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