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Flash Movie Review: Still Alice

The change is so minuscule you would not even be aware of its importance. Years later you may look back and remember it, realizing it was a warning for the oncoming seismic shift about to take place. For some the process is slow and drawn out; the occasional forgetfulness does not seem to be a big deal. Who has not forgotten where they put their house keys or forgotten a word now and then? But later on it becomes more frequent; think of it as a change from autumn to winter. Picture a majestic wide tree with a multitude of branches that curl and twist outward, filled with a thick abundance of leaves. Slowly the rich dark green of the leaves starts to fade, becoming less vibrant. The leaves that had been stretching wide like the palms of many hands were all beginning to close into gnarled fists. Memory drips out of the mind, falling away on a current of air like shriveled leaves; until the tree is laid bare. You may think the person is trapped inside their body but that is not the case; they are no longer there. You only have a living picture of who they were and even that begins to shut down due to the lack of electrical pulses from the expired brain. This is what can happen when someone has Alzheimer’s disease.    JULIANNE Moore (Non-Stop, What Maisie Knew) played linguistics Professor Alice Howland. As an author and expert in her field, how was it possible that she was beginning to forget her words? This film festival winning drama’s success was all due to Julianne Moore. She was remarkable in this role, playing a middle-aged woman with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. There was one scene in particular where she was looking at her younger self and it amazed me how different she made the two images look on screen. I can understand now why she won the Golden Globe award. Some of the other actors in this film were Alec Baldwin (Beetlejuice, 30 Rock-TV) as John Howland, Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns, Blue Crush) as Anna Howland-Jones and Kristen Stewart (Twilight franchise, On the Road) as Lydia Howland. Everyone did a good job of acting; however I really did not get Kristen. It seems like she is doing the same thing in every movie; I have not seen her display any emotional variety with any of the characters she has played. Due to Julianne’s dominant performance, this drama has an effect on the viewer. Not to be funny here, but it seems as if I am paying more attention now when I forget something.

 

3 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

How the heart swells at an act of kindness generated by love. Simple acts such as a small gift on a random day or a surprise visit to share lunch together expand the love that is shared by two. There are multiply levels for acts of love.  Each on is as valid as one from another level; the only difference is the degree of difficulty. I believe a true love is one where the two individuals still maintain their love during life’s challenges. In my opinion, those people who leave a relationship when something hard comes up were never truly in love. For love is unconditional; it will not deflate when a person has a health challenge or disappear when one must travel for work and is gone for weeks at a time. There is the saying love makes the heart grow fonder and I believe it to be true. If love makes up the muscles of the heart then communication is the blood that nourishes it.    LOVE was the underlying motivation to the events in this science fiction adventure film. Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook, Winter’s Bone) reprised her role as Katniss Everdeen for this first of a 2 part ending to the series. Having taken refuge in District 13 headed by President Alma Coin, played by Julianne Moore (Non-Stop, What Maisie Knew); Katniss had to be convinced in lending her voice towards the campaign to keep the revolution alive. When it was discovered Peeta Mellark, played by Josh Hutcherson (Red Dawn, The Kids are all Right), was alive and living in the capitol, Katniss agreed to be the spokesperson of the cause. However, there were a couple of conditions that had to be met. If you have not seen the previous films to this franchise you may feel a bit lost with this one. Things moved slowly at first which I attributed to the writers laying down the groundwork for the huge finale with the 2nd half of this story. Jennifer was her usual amazing self with this character; her acting was especially notable due to her having to pretend to act badly in a couple of the scenes. Compared to the previous installments there was not much action in this picture. There was more of a cat and mouse nature to the story. I did find it sad to see the deceased Philip Seymour Hoffman (A Most Wanted Man, Doubt) on screen playing his character Plutarch Heavensbee. A question came up for me during the latter part of the film. Since I had not read the books, I was wondering if it was really necessary to split the final book into two films. My guess was probably not but I understand how studios want to get the most bang for their buck. Though I enjoyed the previous film more, this one did not give me a reason to leave the series now.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Non-Stop

My face was pressed against the glass window as I saw the airplane being pushed away from its accordion pleated, collapsable walkway. There was an emptiness inside of me as my visiting family members were flying back home. I imagined them settling into their seats and wondered if any of them were looking out of the jet’s windows back at me. Once the plane taxied out of sight I turned and headed out of the gate area. Walking through the terminal I noticed the massive flow of arriving and departing human beings streaming everywhere. One of my little mind games I played when I was a kid was to make up stories about the different people who were walking past me. With the amount of people that travel through an airport, it is an ideal venue to play this game. Where this was an innocent creative outlook for me, back when one could accompany their guests all the way to their gate, these days a majority of people play this game but for totally different reasons. The writers and director used people’s stereotyping and fears to add a charged dimension to this action thriller. Liam Neeson (The A-Team, Kinsey) played former policeman turned air marshal Bill Marks. During a transatlantic flight Bill received a text message demanding $150 million dollars be transferred to an offshore bank account; otherwise, one passenger every 20 minutes would be killed. Added to the mystery was the fact that the bank account was opened in the name of Bill Marks. Liam gave it his all, committing himself to the role and doing a great job as a broken, alcoholic air marshal. If you think this sounds familiar you would be right; it reminded me of Denzel Washington in the movie Flight. The difference however was Denzel’s film made sense; this one had several implausible scenes that defied logic. Putting that aside, I will say there were some tight, tense scenes that kept the viewer guessing on who was the real villain. Personally, I thought the villain was not strong enough. Among the cast was the terrific Julianne Moore (Carrie, Hannibal) as frequent flyer Jen Summers. I found it surprising that relative newcomer, Oscar nominee and winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) had such a small role as flight attendant Gwen. She had maybe a paragraph’s worth of dialog; I can only assume this film was made before 12 Years a Slave. Rounding out the main characters was Michelle Dockery (Hanna, Downton Abbey-TV) as flight attendant Nancy. I have to hand it to Liam; at his age to still be an action hero and maneuver through the aisles of an airplane, he would be the main reason to see this thriller.

 

2 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Carrie

It will all depend on what type of experience you had in school to see what you found scary in this horror film remake. If you were poplar, smart, participated in some type of sports activity or involved in any type of club, chances are you will find the bloodshed and killings mortifying in this movie. But if you were picked on, bullied or did not quite fit in with the majority of your classmates; the actions of the students in this drama will be scarier for you. For those of you who read my review of the original film back in the beginning of November 2012, you know this movie has special meaning for me. My high school years were rough; the first week I was punched in the stomach because I was the only student in class who knew the composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Things only got worse for me afterwards. So, I had some hesitation to see this updated version. Chloe Grace Moretz (Hugo, Let Me In) took on the iconic role of Carrie White, the shy quiet student who discovered she had a special talent. I thought Chloe did an admirable job in the role. The issue I had with her version had more to do with the script. I understand I am comparing this film to the original but I feel I should mention it. With this script Carrie came across as being slightly aggressive. Where Sissy Spacek portrayed confusion and shock regarding her special power; this Carrie seemed to relish her secret gift. It gave the gymnasium scene a different attitude in my opinion. Julianne Moore (Don Jon, What Maise Knew), who I think is a wonderful actress, did a crazier version of Carrie’s zealously religious mother Margaret White. The rest of the cast did not stand out for me compared to Julianne and Chloe. I think part of the reason had to do with their characters. Seeing the mean teasing being done to Carrie caused an immediate reaction inside of me. My body kept tensing up as my brain tried going numb, just as it did in high school when I would see one of the bullies walking towards me. If you have never seen the original movie, you might be interested in seeing this one. To be honest with you, I still prefer the original one directed by Brian De Palma (Scarface, The Untouchables). There were several scenes where blood was shown.

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: What Maisie Knew

One of the purest forms of innocence can be found in a small child. Without the opinions, prejudices or hatred that can be found in adults; children have the ability to be all inclusive. For that reason it is tragic when a child pays the price for an adult’s war. There is one kind of war that involves bullets and bombs, which is horrifying enough. But there is another type of war and this one involves only two adults–the mother and father of the child. It saddens me when I see one parent using their child as a pawn in a fight against the other parent. I cannot bring to mind anything uglier than a couple sacrificing their child for their own personal gain. Because of the excellent acting in this drama, it made watching this film harder for me. Updating this Henry James story to modern day New York City; the plot was about aging rock star Susanna’s, played by Julianne Moore (Being Flynn, A Single Man) bitter divorce battle with her husband Beale, played by Steve Coogan (Ruby Sparks, Our Idiot Brother). All of this is seen through the eyes of their young daughter Maisie, played by relative newcomer Onata Aprile. For such a young girl, her face easily conveyed the emotions she was feeling. A surprise for me was watching Alexander Skarsgard (Battleship, True Blood-TV) as Lincoln. Familiar with his towering vampire role on True Blood, I was impressed with his acting ability in this film. Alexander’s character was one of the strongest in the cast. I could have used more background information on the characters, but it was a minor complaint. It would be hard not to get involved in the story with the strong emotions playing out on screen. All one could do is hope Maisie does not become another casualty of war.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Game Change

I am a defensive pessimist and I am proud of it. As with most things in life there are pluses and minuses associated to everything. On the one hand I am better equipped to handle deviations from a set plan. The reason being, I look at all the negative options that could happen; so, if there is a change, more than likely I have already prepared for it. On the down side, when I am asked to do something my first reaction is to say no; until I can process the request. I know what some of you must be thinking. Let me just say I prefer to shake hands with my neurosis instead of wrestling with them. I think if the political players on Senator John McCain’s team had my ability, things would have been different. This movie was about John McCain’s 2008 campaign for president. I will not be getting into the political aspect of the story; I am reviewing the film and its screenplay. Ed Harris (A History of Violence, The Abyss) did not necessarily look like Senator McCain, but I enjoyed his performance. Woody Harrelson (Seven Psychopaths, The Messenger) was excellent as McCain’s chief political advisor Steve Schmidt. The best performance from the cast was Julianne Moore (Being Flynn, Children of Men) as Sarah Palin. She had the look and mannerisms backed by her excellent acting ability. Whether the events presented here were true or not, one could not help but see Sarah in a sympathetic light. I found it fascinating to witness the dealings behind the public events surrounding the campaign. If any part of the planning depicted in this film for the Katie Couric interview was true; all I have to say is, “Wow.” By the director inserting actual footage into this movie, it added validity to the story. This DVD could be used as an example to show people the pitfalls of being an optimist–in my opinion.

 

3 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Being Flynn

Welcome back Mr. De Niro, you have been missed. For the longest time, Robert De Niro (New Year’s Eve, Goodfellas) has been more like a caricature of himself; doing some cheesy, crappy movies. I was grateful to see him take on the role of Jonathan Flynn; a delusional, self-proclaimed writer. As an absentee father to his son Nick, played by Paul Dano (There Will be Blood, Cowboys & Aliens), Jonathan re-appeared into his son’s life, when he walked into the homeless shelter where Nick was employed. With this set-up the audience was treated to some fine acting from father and son, as the conflicted Nick wondered if there was a chance to connect with his dad. I felt the scenes in the shelter were some of the best in the movie. The story periodically jumped from present to Nick’s childhood, where we were fortunate to see Nick’s mother, Jody Flynn played by the wonderful Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right, Chloe). For the latter part of the movie, I felt the story weakened, slowing down the pace. If nothing else, it was good to see Robert De Niro take on a decent role. I only hope he continues to take on challenging roles and display that fine acting we were used to getting.

 

2 3/4 stars

 

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