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Flash Movie Review: The Gambler

Though I may still struggle with it, I am at least aware the goal is to find balance within myself. This is one of the things yoga has taught me. When participants in my yoga classes hear I am a credit manager, they stare at me in disbelief. Funny, the same thing happens when businesspeople hear I teach yoga. One may see these two jobs at extreme ends of the spectrum but there actually is some overlap between them. Yoga has taught me patience, which is needed for me to work with some large corporations in processing  my company’s invoices for payment. As a credit manager I must be able to multi-task and recall different conversations and events to keep the receivables as current as possible. That ability to multi-task has helped me teach a yoga class where the participants are from all different skill levels. One of my reminders I tell members in class is never go to the extreme of a pose, allow one inch of leeway because that is where real growth takes place. Once a person goes to their extreme there is nowhere to grow from there and they get out of balance. No truer words have been spoken regarding this movie.  ENGLISH professor by day and gambler by night, the stakes became quite high when Jim Bennett, played by Mark Wahlberg (Lone Survivor, The Fighter), could not cover his bets. His life began to spiral further out of control as he sunk deeper into debt, seeking help from gangsters and loan sharks. This film festival nominated crime drama received its strength from three individuals: Jessica Lange (The Vow, Grey Gardens-TV) as Jim’s mother Roberta, John Goodman (Argo, The Monuments Men) as loan shark Frank and Michael Kenneth Williams (12 Years a Slave, The Road) as gangster Neville Baraka. These actors were the dominant force of this thriller. Honestly, I would have preferred if the story revolved around them instead of Mark’s character. I found this remake to be uneven where some parts were dull while others clicked in to keep my attention. After a while there were scenes that seemed as if they were just rehashed from something previous. The story line with the love interest did not seem necessary to me; I would rather had more screen time from the three actors I mentioned earlier. Another issue for me was Mark’s acting; I never became emotionally connected to his character. It was weird because there were events taking place around him that should have made him come out with more intensity. I felt the picture on a whole was out of balance, leaving me not caring much about what happened.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: In Secret

There are a multitude of actions and reactions that can be attributed to love. The warmth that rises up to the surface of your skin when your significant other engulfs your hand with their hand is due to love. Saddened as you look at the remnants of your love’s face outlined on their pillow while they are away on a business trip, slows your heart rate for the duration of their time away. I remember spending weeks driving around the city and suburbs, taking photographs of places we had been to that were associated with happy moments, to create a memory photo album for their birthday. Yep, due to the love I had for them. Love can overrule the mind’s practical side and make us do some things that can be embarrassing, odd or even scary. For me, I cringe when I think about the time I went to meet them at the airport, dressed up as a shirtless cowboy. Please excuse me for a moment as I clear the taste of bile from my mouth. Most of us associate being in love with joyful thoughts, but in this dramatic thriller love revealed a darker side. Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy, Liberal Arts) played Therese Raquin who was sent to stay with her aunt Madame Raquin, played by Jessica Lange (The Vow, Big Fish). She was to become a companion and caretaker for her sickly cousin Camille, played by Tom Felton (Harry Potter franchise, The Apparition). As time passed Therese was taken by surprise the day her aunt decided that she would be marrying her cousin and the three of them would live happily ever after. That was until one day Camille brought home his old friend Laurent, played by Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis, Drive). The sets in this period piece were excellent, depicting France in the 1860s. Already fond of Elizabeth Olsen, I thought her and Jessica’s performances were outstanding. Actually I enjoyed the entire cast; the acting level was of a high caliber. The problems with this film have to do with the script and the directing. There were slow dry scenes where I felt the story sagging. It was sad because the potential for a highly dramatic, powerful film was there but it never reached it. The only love I felt for this film was for Jessica Lange and Elizabeth Olsen.

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Bonneville

Those I call friend join me on a life long journey. We walk side by side down a long and winding road, where we discover amazing sights along the way. Sometimes they have to push me up a hill of doubt; other times, I have to pull them through a thicket of low self-esteem. Either way we take this journey together without any judgements, only unconditional love. Though every step is precious, there is an extra comfort when we share the high and the low points along our way. This comedic drama reinforced the deep affection I have for my friends. After recently reviewing special effect laden blockbusters, it was peaceful just to sit and focus on the art of acting. Recently widowed Arvilla Holden, played by Jessica Lange (The Vow, Big Fish), was distressed further when her stepdaughter demanded her father’s ashes be given to her, to be buried next to his first wife. Not wanting Arvilla to take the trip alone; her two friends Margene Cunningham and Carol Brimm, played by Kathy Bates (Titanic, Midnight in Paris) and Joan Allen (Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, Death Race), decided to join her. The trip would take the three women to unexpected places. For me the story was a generic blueprint; it had no embellishments or surprises to set it apart from similar stories done before. I wished the writers would have done a stronger story line because it really was not fair to the actresses. The acting power of Jessica, Kathy, Joan and Christine Baranski (Mamma Mia, The Good Wife-TV), as the stepdaughter Francine Holden Packard, deserved a better script. There was sweet, gentle moments throughout the film, along with chuckles provided for the most part by Kathy Bates’ character. An added bonus for me was the beautiful scenery the trio stopped at during their journey. This was not a great movie by any means; however, I simply enjoyed the underlying theme of friends being there for each other.

 

2 1/4 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Big Fish

A storyteller takes something ordinary and makes it interesting. With an added twist of words the mundane can be transformed into an extraordinary tale. Before I even began my schooling, I was exposed to a master storyteller–my father. Out of the entire family, my dad was the person who provided tall tales and comic relief for everyone. Anyone who was within ear shot would be drawn into my father’s fabrications. As a salesman, he covered the entire city and always found fodder for his next anecodote. The story of my dad stopping by to surprise my mother and me at the grocery store was completely transformed when he retold it. He would say he went into the store and found me crying at the service desk, separated from my mother. When the service manager asked him who he was, my dad said he was my father. The manager turned and asked me if that was my dad and all I could cry for was my mother, never acknowledging my father. It was these tall tales I grew up with and why this touching movie resonated with me. Albert Finney (Erin Brockovich, Annie) was the colorful character Ed Bloom. After being diagnosed with cancer; his estranged son Will, played by Billy Crudup (Almost Famous, Watchmen), returned home to reconcile with his dad and find out the truth behind the wild stories he had heard growing up. Told in flashbacks the younger Ed Bloom was portrayed by Ewan McGregor (The Impossible, Beginners). Director Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Planet of the Apes) surprised me with this touching, imaginative story. The entire cast blended together so well, that I had no trouble going from fanciful stories to current reality. Jessica Lange was wonderful as she played Ed’s grounded wife Sandra. It was fun to see a younger Steve Buscemi (Fargo, Reservoir Dogs), Danny DeVito (Batman Returns, Twins), Marion Cotillard (Inception, Contagion) and Helena Bonham Carter (Les Miserables, Harry Potter franchise) make up part of the ensemble. This charming movie is being turned into a Broadway play. I believe it will easily transfer to the big stage and do quite well for this simple reason: if you cannot exaggerate the story, then it just isn’t worth telling.

 

3 1/3 stars — DVD

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