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Flash Movie Review: Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile

AFTER YOU GET TO KNOW CERTAIN people, you can anticipate how they will react to certain things. At least that is what I have found to be true. I know a person, who I have come to known, who has a narrow view of the world. If something is different than what she thinks it should be, she immediately has a dislike or distrust for it. Maybe you know someone like this, who looks at the way a stranger is dressed or made up and quickly passes judgement on them. Having been around this person for some time, we were at a party where the guest list was made up of a variety of nationalities and races. This person never left her seat, that she purposely picked in a corner of the room. I would glance over to her from time to time, especially if there were any guests milling about in the area surrounding them. To a stranger, they might have thought this person had an itch in their nose, but I knew better. If this person did not “approve” of a hairstyle or outfit or I would hate to think race or nationality, they would ever so slightly crinkle up their nose and lips. I knew them well enough to recognize that “look,” as if they had just tasted something that was sour. Instead of venturing out of their bubble and learning about an individual, they sat there alone the whole night.      I WILL ADMIT WHEN IT COMES to food, I might not want to taste it if it doesn’t look “good” to me, whatever good means in my mind. However, with people it is a different story. That is one of the reasons I watch one particular singing reality television show. Normally, I do not watch any of the reality shows, but this one I enjoy because the judges are basing their decisions on the contestant’s voice. The judges do not get to see the performer until after they are done singing. I enjoy watching the talent and seeing how individuals who might not get a break in the industry because they do not “look the part” get to experience everything that goes along with sharing their special talent. This might explain why I frequently use the phrase, “Do not judge a book by its cover.” I have been pleasantly surprised encountering people who others may have been wary about based on some false, preconceived notion. The example I have used before is the man who struck an imposing figure but had the sweetest and most gentle personality. It is a message that rings deeply in me and why I wound up being taken by surprise in this adventure comedy.      IT WAS HARD MAKING FRIENDS AT a new school, but things were not all bad after Josh, played by Winslow Fegley (Come Play, Nightbooks) discovered who was living in the attic of his family’s new home. With musical artist Shawn Mendes voicing Lyle, Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos, Loving Pablo) as Hector P. Valenti, Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians, Sound of My Voice) as Mrs. Primm and Scott McNairy (12 Years a Slave, Argo) as Mr. Primm; this musical movie based on the children’s book series had a wonderful message in its story. The cast was fun to watch, despite some of them close to becoming cartoonish. The CGI effects were fine as well as Shawn’s singing. There were some holes in the script, where I thought the story was veering off a bit; however, it was not anything so blatant that disrupted the flow of scenes. The biggest surprise was Javier’s performance; I had no idea he could sing and dance. Children will certainly be entertained by this picture and, as a bonus, everyone could use a refresher course on not judging a book by its cover.

3 stars

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Flash Movie Review: Being the Ricardos

I REMEMBER WATCHING IT BUT DID not actively seek it out. After school I would walk home and usually grab something for a snack before dinner. Since I was sitting and eating, I would turn on the television and channel surf the stations. What caught my eye was the fact there was a TV show filmed in black and white. As I sat there watching it, I was struck by the female lead’s physicality; she had an expressive face and she knew how to use it, besides the physical exertion she would put out in her movements. It fascinated me because I could not recall seeing a female on television who did this same type of comedy. I became enthralled by the show and began to make it a point that I got home in time to catch this show. The funny thing is, I thought I was watching a new show each week. It turned out they were repeats, that the original airing of the show was some years earlier. No matter to me, I got swept up into the lives of this couple with their neighbors and friends. I do not easily laugh out loud, but I found myself more times than not, laughing at the antics the female lead was getting herself in to every day.      IT WAS MANY YEARS LATER THAT I discovered this woman who played that lead was a very shrewd businesswoman. I had seen her for many years on her various television shows and movies, besides guest starring on other TV shows. The things I knew about her were more in line with the fodder that gossip magazines put out; however, after doing some research I discovered not only was she a smart individual, but her husband was as well. After all this time I still can see one snippet of a scene from her classic television show and immediately recall the entire episode; it is as if I was there as part of the set, the memories are so crystal clear. What a remarkable life this woman led. At one time, approximately 60 million households tuned in to watch her on television. Can you imagine that? She commanded such an audience that evidently the retail establishment made changes simply to accommodate those shoppers that were fans of the show. These facts are historic and just think, I accidently stumbled on the show when I was a little kid, who wanted to watch something while eating my afternoon snack. Because of these memories, I felt I was transported back in time as I began watching this wonderful biographical drama based on true events.      WITH ONLY ONE WEEK TO WRITE, rehearse and put on a weekly television show; there were so many things taking place that the viewing audience had no idea were happening. How the female lead not only survived each challenge but went on to become a legend in the process. With Nicole Kidman (The Goldfinch, Boy Erased) as Lucille Ball, Javier Bardem (Skyfall, The Sea Inside) as Desi Arnaz, J.K. Simmons (The Tomorrow War, Palm Springs) as William Frawley, Nina Arlanda (Richard Jewell, Stan & Ollie) as Vivian Vance and Tony Hale (Clifford the Big Red Dog, Arrested Development-TV) as Jess Oppenheimer; this historical piece of Americana was brilliant in who was cast it turns out. When I heard Nicole was playing Lucy, I thought for sure she would not be able to handle such a larger-than-life character. I was wrong; I actually forgot it was her because she was so deep into character. Javier was a major surprise because he was incredible as Desi. Honestly, everyone was terrific in this film and though the dialog was tight and smart, I wished there had been a deeper delving into Lucy and Desi. At times, I felt as if the story was getting confused in what it was trying to say. Despite this I still am a fan of this film; it may partly be due to my fond memories of the show.                                                            

3 ¼ stars   

Flash Movie Review: Everybody Knows

THERE ARE SOME FAMILY GATHERINGS THAT require a program to keep the cast of characters clear in one’s mind. I will avoid talking about my own since it would be easy for the family members to identify themselves in my stories. There have been many occasions where I have been included in another family’s event. From somber to joyful I have discovered each family has their own “baggage” whether they acknowledge it or not. Also, it has reaffirmed in me the belief that there is no such thing as a “normal” family. I was included in a friend’s family dinner where two sisters did not speak to each other because they had an argument months (yes, that is right months) ago. Do you have any idea how challenging it is to carry on a conversation where you have to address each person separately on the same topic? They never made eye contact nor referred to the other in any way; it was uncomfortable for me and yet the parents sat at the dining room table as if nothing in the world was wrong. The wildest part of it was when food was being passed around the table. Neither sister would hand the other any food going around; instead, would put it on the table to make the other sibling stand up and reach for it. Crazy, isn’t it?      AT THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM, I have been at family functions where nothing was held back; family members were sharing the most intimate details about their personal lives. In other words, WTMI (way too much information). There would be no need for me to hear what type of physical characteristics a relative is looking for in a mate. Or how about sitting around the living room as 3 relatives get into a heated argument, calling each other names and swearing at the top of their lungs. I remember looking around to get a cue on how to react, but the other relatives were just sitting there sipping their cups of coffee and nibbling on their snacks as if nothing was taking place. At one point I thought I was entering a boxing match as the yelling relatives were getting up into each other’s faces. Now I come from a point of view where everyone has the right to express their feelings; but not during a heated argument. It should be a calm setting with no fear of retaliation. If you are curious to see an example of a family with issues, then feel free to observe what takes place with the family in this dramatic crime mystery.      RETURNING TO HER SMALL HOME TOWN for her sister’s wedding was to be a happy occasion for Laura, played by Penelope Cruz (The Counsellor, Broken Embraces). But when a tragic event took place, the cracks beneath the family’s surface spread further apart. This film festival winning movie also starred Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside, No Country for Old Men) as Paco, Ricardo Darin (The Secret in Their Eyes, Wild Tales) as Alejandro, Edward Fernandez (Biutiful, The Man with Thousand Faces) as Fernando and Barbara Lennie (Magical Girl, El Nino) as Bea. The acting in this film was excellent; whether it was joyful or heart wrenching, I was feeling the characters’ emotional states. With the acting so strong, this picture needed a tightly written script to keep the actors aloft. At times I felt some scenes went flat; luckily, there were not many of them. The other criticism I have has to do with the ending. It seemed to tidy as if it wanted to wrap up the story quickly. Otherwise, this picture still kept my interest as I wondered what other things this family had hidden below the surface. Spanish was spoken with English subtitles.

 

2 ½ stars    

Flash Movie Review: Loving Pablo

IS A PERSON JUST BEING GOOD to you enough to have a relationship with them? I have always had a curiosity about the things that are important to a person seeking and being in a love relationship. One of the things that piqued my curiosity was seeing news reporters interviewing the love interest of a person who had recently committed a crime or was in an altercation. Hearing the girlfriend say her boyfriend has always been good to her after he had just been accused of bludgeoning a man to death was the oddest thing to me. Let us say it was true, that he was kind and respectful of her; is that all one needs to fall in love? There seems to be more similar examples currently than I can recall years ago. A husband is stunned when he finds out his wife has been embezzling money from her place of employment for years. Behind the husband and reporter, parked in the driveway of the couple’s house, was a brand new expensive car. I find it all bizarre; how can someone only focus on certain aspects of an individual and base their affection solely on those features? I know I cannot do it.      IN MY WORLD ACTIONS HAVE AS much importance as words; in other words, it is not just what a person says that will cement my feelings towards them. I think anyone can say anything and I have been in relationships where the person said things they knew would pull at my heart strings. And the words did; however, there were things they did that did not earn my trust. I had friends who had warned me, but you know how that goes; unless they are in your shoes, you feel your friends are not able to see the whole picture. It is funny because I have been in their place where I expressed my concerns about friends’ love interests. There was one person who was a user, who only cared about himself. Yes, he would do these sweet things for my friend that made her heart swell; but he had no empathy and was a cheapskate. If the opportunity came up where she asked me for my opinion I would tell her exactly what I thought. The one thing I would not do is tell her what she “should” do; I knew she would have to figure out what worked for her. Also, I remained respectful around him. My motto is, “I do not have to accept anything, but need to respect it.” And when it comes to this biographical crime film, no truer words have been spoken. If not, one could find themselves getting killed.      DESPITE BEING COLOMBIA’S MOST NOTORIOUS DRUG LORD there was something about Pablo Escobar, played by Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) that made journalist and anchorwoman Virginia Vallejo, played by Penelope Cruz (The Counselor, Vicky Cristina Barcelona), fall in love with him. It wasn’t long before everyone knew. This film festival winning action movie also starred Peter Sarsgaard (Jackie, The Magnificent Seven) as Shepherd, Julieth Restrepo (At the End of the Spectra, Moria) as Maria Victoria Henao and Oscar Jaenada (The Shallows, Cantinflas) as Santoro. It goes without saying that Javier and Penelope were a perfect match since they are married to each other. I enjoyed the two of them in this story and picked up a couple of things I did not know about Escobar. However, the script was too superficial; I would have preferred if the writers went deeper into the characters. Instead there were scenes of blood and violence which were expected, but I felt there had to be more to this story than what was shown.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Mother!

A TINY POOL of liquid was growing larger in the bowl of guacamole the longer the night went on. The offer of food and drink had ended a long time ago as one host sat and watched the secondhand tick around the clock dial. The other host was keeping busy by tidying up around the room, washing glasses and plates from time to time when hopefully her absence would not be detected. After dinner and dessert the small group of people played a couple of games before settling into their spots to chill out and talk among themselves. As the evening wound down the guests started to leave until there were only 2-3 guests left. These remaining guests had a reputation for always being the last ones to leave a party. Somehow they did not or chose not to pick up the telltale signs hosts would enact to signal they were tired and wanted the party to end.      MAYBE I MENTIONED this in an earlier post but all the clocks in my house show different times. How it started was when I pushed the time on my alarm clock ahead in the hope of never being late for work. From there it expanded to the rest of the clocks because I discovered many people do not pay attention to the actual time. From the parties I have thrown there were times where I was dead tired by the end of the evening. By having the clocks set ahead I could make a comment about how late the evening had gone; guests would look at the clock and be surprised by how fast time had passed by. Now before you say anything I do want to tell you that after I found my voice I no longer needed to depend on my false clock times to get late night guests out of the house; now I just tell them it is late and I am tired. It is a shame I could not have invited the homeowners in this dramatic, mystery horror film to one of my parties so they could take a lesson.     WHEN THE UNEXPECTED man, played by Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind, The Rock) was invited in by the homeowners, played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games franchise, American Hustle) and Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, The Sea Inside), they had no idea how their lives would change. This film festival nominated movie written and directed by Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Fountain), also starred Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Begins, Dark Shadows) as the wife to Ed Harris’ character. The first part of the story was suspenseful and I immediately enjoyed everyone’s acting. However as the script continued this film got weirder and weirder. I became irritated with all the close up shots Darren was doing of Jennifer. The thing about this movie was I appreciated what I felt was the allegories the writer was trying to show. However as the story descended into a pseudo horror film I could not wait for the picture to be over. Because of the stark shift from suspense to horror I experienced a stronger negative reaction. Despite the acting  from a cast I admired, I could not find justification for the amount of time I wasted watching this movie.

 

1 1/2 stars

 

Flash Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

ONCE again I was dressed up as a clown. I actually had no complaints about the costume; it was custom made using satin fabric. The buttons down the front were these big colored pom-pom looking things. Though the outfit was not made for me, it had been handed down; only a few adjustments were needed for me to safely walk in it. There was a cone shaped hat with another of those pom-poms attached on top that completed the outfit. I could only wear the hat for a short time before the strap holding it down on my head started to irritate under my chin. The first time the costume was worn by the original owner, they won a costume contest at a local theater. By the time I got the outfit, it was still in good shape. Why wouldn’t it be? It was handmade with strong stitching and detailing. You could not compare it to one of those store bought costumes for the fabric was thicker and it must have had better elastic because the cuffs of the legs still were able to hug my ankles, helping the balloon effect of the pants.     AFTER wearing the clown costume every Halloween for a few years I finally was able to pick out my very own outfit. The reason was due to me outgrowing the pants, both in length and width. I remember spending the longest time at the toy store deciding what I wanted to be. I looked at the popular outfits like a soldier and pirate, but it seemed like all my friends were picking those outfits to wear. Finally I decided to become an astronaut; I thought the white spacesuit was cool with its fake badges and big pockets. And of course the big feature was the helmet though I had wished the visor would have been real. You would have thought I would have been thrilled to walk the neighborhood in my new outfit but I did not experience that feeling. After wearing the same costume for a few years I was just getting to the age where I really did not care to go trick or treating anymore. It is a similar feeling to what I experienced watching this action adventure fantasy.     WITH the rumors possibly being true about Poseidon’s trident, opposing forces were in a mad dash to gain the powerful device. Starring Johnny Depp (Black Mass, The Lone Ranger) as Captain Jack Sparrow, Javier Bardem (The Gunman, No Country for Old Men) as Captain Salazar and Geoffrey Rush (The Book Thief, The Best Offer) as Captain Hector Barbossa; the best acting came from Javier and Geoffrey. In fact I could watch Javier if there was a spinoff to this film franchise. The reason being the story here was a hodgepodge. It did not help that I thought Johnny brought nothing new to the role; besides the script felt a bit tired with the same type of things seen in the previous films. Having said that, I will say I enjoyed the special effects in this picture and there were a lot of them. The majority of the scenes were action based, almost to the point of one after another after another. One other issue I had was the length of this movie; I felt it needed another round of editing. If you want light familiar fare to make the time go by then this newest installment might satisfy you; however, don’t be surprised if it leaves you wanting more. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.

 

2 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Gunman

Everyone has their own way of offering penance to right a wrong. There are some people who will say they are sorry so many times that it begins to sound like a standard salutation. When I have to I will usually use the word “apologize” instead of “sorry” because for some reason I have it in my brain that the word sorry should be saved for important occasions. I want the word to have deeper meaning when I use it. Instead of verbalizing one’s regrets there are some individuals who will perform an act of kindness to represent the regret of their actions. After the disintegration of an important relationship, where I kept starting my heated sentences with the word “you” instead of sharing my feelings, I spent months volunteering at a few non-profit organizations that represented us. A goal I have for this lifetime is not to leave with any regrets. Sure there are times I feel guilty about something that happened; but before I act upon it I look back to see how I could have handled the situation differently. When someone tells me they wished they did not feel guilty I point out that feeling guilt is a good thing; it shows that we are aware and in touch with our feelings. On the other hand there are people who know how to manipulate others by placing a guilt trip on them.    FORMALLY part of a Congo based assassination team Terrier, played by Sean Penn (All the King’s Men, Milk), did not realize when he returned after several years that he would become the target. This action drama film assembled a capable cast. Besides Sean there was Javier Bardem (The Counselor, Eat Pray Love) as Felix, Jasmine Trinca (The Son’s Room, The Big Dream) as Annie and Ray Winstone (Hugo, The Departed) as Stanley. It was obvious Sean put a great deal of time into this role since he bulked up for the character, removing his shirt several times to show it off. This may sound odd but the story was easy to follow; it just did not make much sense. Sadly the script was poorly done where I found myself being bored several times. The truth is once I understood the story I realized the writers had a perfect opportunity to create a compelling, tight script. They failed miserably because there was no tension, suspense or connections between most of the characters. If they thought the violence and bloodshed would suffice, I have to say they were completely wrong. I tried finding good things to say about this crime movie but I could not come up with anything else. There is nothing I have to apologize for with this review. There was blood and violence throughout the movie.

 

1 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Counselor

The word “enough” has a different meaning today than it did when I was growing up. Back then the word meant: as much or as many as required; like when I was asked if I had enough to eat. It related more to a personal level. I have always said if I won the lottery there would be little change in my personal possessions. There would be no multiple car purchases or living in a mansion. One of the benefits I could see would be for me to no longer worry how I was paying for something. That would be a nice aspect I wish to experience someday. These days I find the word “enough” is being used more as a comparison to someone else. For example, they have more than I do, I do not have enough. Greed seems to have taken on a more extreme persona in society today. When the news reports on prominent people getting caught for illegal activity, in their desire to acquire even more wealth, I have to wonder what is wrong that they cannot be satisfied with what they have already. An extreme example of this is the premise for this dramatic crime film. Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave, A Dangerous Method) played a wealthy counselor who decided to acquire more wealth via drug trafficking. When the deal did not go as planned, the counselor learned there were consequences to the decisions he made. Based on the book by Cormac McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men), the script was Cormac’s attempt at being a screenwriter. This was a poor decision because the script was horrendous. I thought the dialog was bizarre while multiple scenes made no sense. Even with a cast that included Javier Barden (Skyfall, No Country for Old Men) as Reiner, Penelope Cruz (To Rome With Love, Volver) as Laura and Cameron Diaz (Bad Teacher, My Sister’s Keeper) as Malkina; there was no way they could save this film from its bloody boredom. I found it interesting that a film about greed may have been green lighted by individuals who wanted to score again, on par with the fortunes reaped from their previous film No Country for Old Men. It was a greedy ploy that did not pay off. There were scenes with blood and violence.

 

1 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: To the Wonder

It takes a lot of work to make a long distance relationship successful. Communication is so important, I have found, in keeping that connection solid when the two individuals are apart. One of the pitfalls of a long distance relationship is when the two of you are together, it tends to feel like a vacation. Cramming in favorite restaurants and sights becomes the norm, bypassing the reality of daily life. Another thing to consider, if the final goal is to start a life together in the same place, is what location becomes home base. A sure sign of maturity with your decision is when “yours” and “mine” becomes “ours.” In this dramatic romance directed by Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life, Day’s of Heaven), we witness the shock waves of a couple’s love when the romance and reality of their relationship come together. Ben Affleck (Argo, The Town) played Neil, an American who fell in love with a woman he met while traveling through Europe. Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Hitman) was Marina, the European woman smitten with Neil. After a whirlwind romance Neil brought Marina back to the states, to settle with him down in Oklahoma. Told with very little dialog, I felt I was just watching a series of random scenes on the movie screen. I can appreciate the artistic value in making a film such as this, where the viewer is being told the story via visuals. However, after 15-20 minutes I started losing interest in the story. As the movie dragged on I felt I was in one of those market research groups watching a series of beautiful television commercials and I was supposed to rate them. As for co-stars Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris, The Vow) as Jane and Javier Bardem (Skyfall, No Country For Old Men) as Father Quintana, they were wasted in this laborious movie. I strongly disliked Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life; however, if you enjoyed that film, you probably would like this one. Consider this a lighter version with less unconnected scenes of outer space and nature. I have to tell you, it was easier for me to handle the times of separation in my long distance relationship than sitting through this movie.

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Skyfall

It took me a moment to process what appeared on the movie screen before me. This year is the 50th anniversary of the first James Bond movie. For those who might not know, it was Dr. No back in 1962. My most vivid memory of a James Bond film was Thunderball. It was an evening showing and my parents took me to a classic movie palace. Washed in a white glow, the terra cotta building had a colorful marquee with the theater’s name flashing above in small twinkling lights. Inside there were onyx colored marble walls with a row of brass torcheres topped with an orange glow, standing like sentinels down the long hallway. Sitting in red velvet seats, the three of us felt regal as we watched the exciting movie. After all these years, I felt the same excitement while watching this new Bond movie. Daniel Craig (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Defiance) was outstanding this time around, playing an older and wiser James Bond. When a computer drive, filled with the secret identities of every British Agent, was stolen; James discovered a bigger plot was in play that personally affected M, played by Judi Dench (J. Edgar, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). The surprise for me was Judi Dench; her role was rich and deep. Add in her steely blue eyes, perfect diction and brilliant acting skills; this was the best M portrayal I have ever seen. The script played tribute to the Bond heritage, allowing sly humor to filter in between the well choreographed action. One could see Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside, No Country for Old Men) relished playing the high tech villain Silva, making the character memorable. When one goes to see a James Bond movie, there are certain things that are just a given: explosive action, high tech weapons, witty dialog, elegance and hand to hand fights. No one would be disappointed by this thriller. Granted the story was far fetched but that goes with the territory. After all these years for a James Bond movie to still excite me was amazing. The character has gotten better with age, allowing a new generation of viewers to come on board. Years from now these new fans should easily remember the time they saw their first James Bond movie. Scenes with violence and blood.

 

3 1/3 stars

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