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Flash Movie Review: Official Secrets

“CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET” IS something I still get asked, even though the person asking me knows the answer. I am not a gossiper by nature, though I enjoy being in the know. From the jobs I have worked, I never told anyone about the employee who was cheating on his wife despite the fact she worked at the same company. Or, there was another employee who during her lunchtime would partake in some heavy-duty drug use. She would be tripping at her desk but no one around her seemed to notice. I used to wonder if she purposely wore her large tinted glasses at the office to hide her eyes because she did not need glasses to read. I have been told such a variety of secrets by different people that I could probably write a book about them. From the sad to the bizarre, I have been the keeper of people’s secrets. It is funny because for me the definition of secret means not telling anyone; so, I do not always understand a person’s motives that compel them to share their secrets with someone else. Though, as I just wrote that I am recalling an employee I worked with who was planning to get back at her boss by pranking him. She started to tell me what she was going to do but I stopped her. I did not want to know anything so I could not be accused of being a co-conspirator.      ONE OF THE TOUGHEST SECRETS I had to keep inside of me was not necessarily a secret. I had heard an employee talking to another employee about our boss was going to let someone in our department go, mentioning the person by name. Since I had no way to verify their statement, as far as I was concerned that employee was gossiping. However, that did not make me feel any better whenever I was around the employee who was supposedly going to be fired. The reason being, she had recently found a house she wanted to buy and was starting the process of getting approved with her bank. I knew if she was let go before the bank did a credit check on her, she might not get approved.  Or worse, she gets approved and buys the house but then cannot afford it because she no longer has a job. I did not know what to do and started feeling uncomfortable anytime I was around her. No matter how much discomfort I was experiencing back then, it paled in comparison to what the main character had to endure in this dramatic, biographical film.      WHAT SHE READ THAT CAME ACROSS her computer was top secret information. If Katherine Gun, played by Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms), told anyone about it she could be jailed; but if she did not say something, many people could die. With Matthew Goode (Match Point, A Single Man) as Peter Beaumont, Indira Varma (Exodus: Gods and Kings, Rome-TV) as Shami Chakrabarti, Ralph Fiennes (The White Crow, A Bigger Splash) as Ben Emmerson and Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill, Snowden) as Ed Vulliamy; this film festival winner was based on a true story. Keira’s performance was so believable and emotional that I could not keep my eyes off her. The story was both incredible and incredulous. I found myself sympathizing with the characters to the point where I was experiencing a bit of anxiety; that is how good the actors were in their roles, along with the pacing of the story. Because this movie was only being showed on a limited schedule at the theater, I feel many people will miss the opportunity to experience this picture. It is not a secret; this movie entertained and informed me.

 

3 stars

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Flash Movie Review: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

EVERY GENERATION DOESN’T KNOW IT, BUT they will be contributing at least one thing that will become a classic through time. The word “classic” can be defined as a standard or work of excellence that has been judged over a period of time. Some examples of classic objects would be the trench coat, a particular glass measuring cup, certain toys like a famous red wagon, the novel “Moby Dick” and the Mona Lisa painting. What would not be considered a classic would be elephant bell bottomed pants or puka shell necklaces. Do you remember when that soft drink company changed the formula of their flagship cola drink? They had to bring back the original formula and tacked on the word “classic” to its name. I think from any class of objects there will always be an item that will pass the length of time to become a classic. In fashion, home goods, architecture or music; something will endure for generations to come. One thing that comes to mind is the music from the Beatles. Look at how many times their songs have been done and redone over and over; I assume most everyone from every age group knows of them.      IF YOU LOOK AT THE ARTS you will find certain things that never go out of style. When I was younger I did not understand why people would go to a symphony concert to hear the same piece of music that they have heard several times before. Sure, it might be a different conductor or orchestra; but I did not realize how the beauty of the music moved the individuals. The same goes for ballet; I still remember the 1st time I saw the Nutcracker Suite ballet. I had to sit on top of a folded jacket that was placed on the seat, so I could see over the heads in front of me. Seeing the Mouse King, the Sugar Plum fairy and the Nutcracker dancing across the stage was a magical experience. I started to understand the concept of what makes something classic after I returned to see the ballet a 2nd time with other relatives the following year. While watching the dancers I would glance at the relatives near me, noticing their laser like gazes out of joyful facial expressions. If I remember correctly, one holiday I received a music recording of the ballet. I used to play it over and over. Sadly, that will not be the case for this family, adventure fantasy.      THE GIFT CLARA, PLAYED BY MACKENZIE FOY (The Twilight Sage franchise, The Conjuring), received from her deceased mother was missing a key. With the help of her godfather Drosselmeyer, played by Morgan Freeman (Going in Style, The Dark Knight franchise), Clara found herself in a magical world where toys had come to life. With Helen Mirren (Winchester, Woman in Gold) as Mother Goose, Keira Knightley (Colette, The Imitation Game) as Sugar Plum and Jayden Fowora-Knight (Ready Player One) as Phillip; this movie was all about the visuals. With lush and imaginative scenery and costumes, along with the tidbits of the Nutcracker Suite’s score, I was shocked at the lackluster script. Helen and Keira were the bright stars of this picture, but they had to deal with the wooden and I mean wooden performances around them. I think younger kids would be scared by the Mouse King’s subjects, when they would come together to form their giant mouse. This was such a mish mosh of story lines that I became bored halfway through the story. With such a classical story and musical score at their disposal, I could not believe the movie studio thought they were creating something special. By the time I got to the theater’s parking lot I had already forgotten about this film; luckily, I still had waiting for me at home the recording of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite to play.

 

1 ¾ stars                 

Flash Movie Review: The Imitation Game

Unless there is some kind of hard proof or evidence, I do not quite understand why someone would discourage another person from trying something different. Though I saw more of it during my school years, I still witness people putting a negative spin on someone else who is attempting to do something different from what they would do. You could easily extend this type of negativity to those individuals who were just being different, but that would take up a whole lot more space for today’s review. My way of learning something is to make a mistake because then I can align my logic with reality’s logic; did that make sense to you? I can remember building a science project and the teacher telling me I was doing it wrong. How did she know it was wrong before I was done? The funny thing about it was I had been building a work environment for a left-handed person; so, everything was placed opposite from what the instructor was used to as a right-handed person. Imagine if someone told Albert Einstein he was on the wrong track when he was working on his theory of relativity; I am a firm believer in embracing differences. It is our differences that can make our world a better place.    DURING World War II the Nazis were communicating by using an unbreakable code machine called Enigma. Assembling the smartest people of their time, British intelligence was not quite sure about mathematician Alan Turing, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate, Sherlock-TV). He wanted to do something completely different from everyone else. Based on true life events, this film festival winning dramatic thriller was a biographical blend of history, war film and intense excitement. I had some knowledge about Alan going into this picture, but I do not know how much of the movie’s story was true. But you know something; I could not have cared less. This film was so well done with a brilliant cast that also included Keira Knightley (Begin Again, Pride & Prejudice) as Joan Clarke, Charles Dance (Dracula Untold, Game of Thrones-TV) as Commander Denniston and Mark Strong (Body of Lies, Robin Hood) as Stewart Menzies. There was such a vibe of civility and subtleness throughout this movie that Benedict was perfectly able to convey to the viewers; he was truly amazing. I was swept away by this film; going through the same emotions at the same time as the characters were in the story. Just the historical importance of Alan’s role in history was enough to carry this movie, but I was glad there was more included from the writers. I for one was so grateful Alan was different.

 

4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Laggies

You may know some who are being shoved to it, kicking and screaming. I personally continue to look for alternative routes to avoid its constant creep towards me. There are some people who run head-on to that point of time where they will finally be considered a grown-up. What is wrong with them? Yes, I know there are many advantages to being an adult; I am not knocking it. I really wish the knowledge I have now in my adult life had come earlier when I was younger. Now you have to admit all those responsibilities that come with being a grown-up can be daunting at times. At some point a majority of us will have to take on the duty of paying bills, maintaining a livable space and cleaning it; though I do not know what all the buzz is about cleaning, the space just gets dirty again. For those who want to have a family, they then extend themselves into child rearing; it never ends! Oh for those times where one could be free to do whatever they want, whenever they want, not having to be accountable to anyone. Looking at the world around us, I have to tell you it really takes courage these days to be an adult.    THOUGH she was highly educated Megan, played by Keira Knightley (Begin Again, Anna Karenina) did not have much motivation. When her boyfriend Anthony, played by Mark Webber (The Memory Thief, Scott Pilgrim vs the World), surprised her at a friend’s wedding by getting down on one knee to propose to her, it was too much for Megan to handle. She found herself shortly thereafter at a convenience store where 16 year old Annika, played by Chloe Grace Moretz (The Equalizer, If I Stay), and her friends were hanging out looking for someone to buy them alcohol. The two women would start a friendship that would change their lives. Directed by Lynn Shelton (Safety Not Guaranteed, Your Sister’s Sister) this comedic romance had good potential. Lynn let the actors tell the story in a straightforward way that seemed real to me. The acting was good and I really enjoyed seeing Sam Rockwell (The Way Way Back, Seven Psychopaths) playing Annika’s dad Craig. One of the issues I had with this film had to do with the story; there were parts that were too far-fetched for me. I was sitting in my seat thinking that could never happen. Though I enjoyed Lynn’s earlier films, this movie was slow moving. Maybe it needed more exploration of the characters but I felt scenes were starting to repeat themselves with nothing new added. How ironic that I found myself looking at the screen and thinking will these people just grow up already.

 

2 1/4 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Begin Again

There are people who come into our lives to provide us with the glasses of confidence for us to see our true abilities. It can happen to any of us where the important things close to us cannot be seen. This movie review site is the perfect example. I had been content emailing friends and family my latest feelings about the movies I had seen. A few friends mentioned setting up a site where I would only need to type up one review of a movie and the site would forward it to those who signed up. One friend in particular was the catalyst for me to pull myself away from the fear of uncertainty and venture into the vulnerable world of the internet. He was a former talk show host out east, who was a gifted cook. His latest project was to create a blog where he could teach viewers how to cook. He had such an enthusiasm that was infectious regarding his blog that it spilled over onto me. With his encouragement and incredible positive attitude, I began the mental process of creating Moviejoltz. There are so many examples around us of individuals who have the ability to illuminate our seeds of hope; I could go on and on.    INSTEAD I suggest you watch what took place in this comedic drama. Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Now You See Me) played Dan, a down on his luck music executive. Spiraling down into a world of alcoholism, one night Dan heard a voice in a nightclub that would change his life and the life of the singer/songwriter Greta, played by Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit). Written and directed by John Carney (Once, The Rafters) this musical movie had a certain charm and sweetness to it, even if it was somewhat predictable. The best part was the acting. Besides Mark and Keira, Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Ender’s Game) as Dan’s daughter Violet and musician Adam Levine (American Horror Story-TV) as Greta’s boyfriend Dave were excellent with their characters. I will admit there was a part of me that felt the director was trying to recapture the magic of his movie Once, however having the story set in New York City along with the gifted cast, I found myself being entertained by the story. An additional surprise was seeing Keira carrying a tune which only added to my enjoyment of the soundtrack. Being a firm believer that we each are handed a gift from everyone we meet, I found the way the characters connected in this film to be life affirming.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

I am so grateful I stopped using my charge card after the November Black Friday hacking scandal came to light. You see I used my card at that retailer over the weekend it was discovered and was concerned my account information got stolen. This past Saturday I received a phone call from the charge card company because they were detecting a suspicious transaction taking place on my account number. Someone in Plano, Texas was attempting to buy $41.28 worth of items at a grocery store, using an actual charge card with my number on it, at the checkout cash register. After telling the representative on the phone that I had the card in my possession here at home; she denied the purchase and closed the account, telling me a new account number and charge card would be issued and sent to me immediately. The reason I am mentioning it is because this happened just before I left to see this action thriller. The story involved electronic sabotage. Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, Unstoppable) played Jack Ryan. After an injury ended his military career, Jack caught the attention of Thomas Harper, played by Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves, Waterworld), who believed Jack’s skills would help the CIA foil a possible terrorist act against the United States. Possibly due to not having read the Tom Clancy books with Jack Ryan and my hacking episode, I enjoyed this action mystery film more than I though I would. Sure I still thought of Captain Kirk when Chris was on screen, but I thought his action scenes were well choreographed and his acting was good enough for the role. I thought Kevin did a fine job playing an older no-nonsense character. Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina, King Arthur) who played Doctor Cathy Muller was adequate, but the character felt more like it was there just to add a love interest into the story. As for Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn, Hamlet) who directed and starred as Viktor Cherevin in this movie, his direction and pacing was tight, keeping the story moving forward; I never felt a dull moment. However, his character was confusing to me because I did not quite understand his motives, nor thought he was intense enough. There were a couple of “you have to be kidding me” scenes but they played into the action scenes. If they make a sequel I probably would go see it. I just would not use my charge card to pay for it. There were a few scenes that had violence and blood.

 

2 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Never Let Me Go

To dwell on the unfairness of life is akin to worrying about a house you built on quicksand. Though my house is not built directly on quicksand, it certainly is on the edge. Think of it as coastal property. I try not to judge my life based on other people’s success. For example, if I cannot afford to buy a ticket to a charity fundraiser I will apply to be a volunteer. I may be asked to work the reception desk or silent auction table, which is fine for me. But when asked to sell raffle tickets I become anxious. It amazes me how uncivil some people can be when being asked if they want to buy a ticket. You would have thought I was asking for their first born. I have been talked down to, pushed aside and yelled at to stop bothering them. How can I not wonder if these same individuals would treat me the same if I was a paying guest and not a volunteer. In the scheme of things I know I should let this type of thing roll off of me, but it is hard. What snaps me out from letting myself wallow in a funk is to remember I have my health. It is not like I am battling the deadly disease that the charity is raising funds to combat. Based on the book by Kazuo Ishiguro, this dramatic movie posed questions for me regarding morality and mortality. Set in an English boarding school, three residents grew up only to discover the truth about why they were born. Carey Mulligan (Drive, An Education), Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man, A Social Network) and Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina, A Dangerous Method) played the adult friends Kathy, Tommy and Ruth. Each of them did a beautiful job with their acting, bringing their characters to life with emotional depth. With a perfect musical accompaniment to the intelligent filming, I did not mind the slower passages of the story. This was not a happy movie; the sadness hung in the air like a heavy mist. I have a feeling people watching this film will either love it or dislike it. Either way the experience will not come close to the lives of the three main characters in this melancholy movie.

 

3 1/4 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Anna Karenina

My father’s side of the family traces itself back to Russia. I remember my parents had an old shoebox filled with thick postcard sized photographs of my father’s relatives. All of the pictures were sepia toned, showing somber relatives dressed in heavy clothing. I would periodically go through the photos imaging what those relatives’ lives were like back then. There was one picture in particular that I liked of my uncle. He was bundled in a big fur coat and oversized shearling hat that was pulled down low to his eyebrows, as he was standing up in a reindeer drawn sled. While watching this lush looking film I was reminded of those old photographs. Each scene in this movie was presented in such a way that I felt I was paging through an aristocratic family’s photo album. Adding in the beautiful musical score only made the experience more pleasing. Based on Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, the story set in 19th century Russia was about the life of Anna Karenina, wife of prominent Aleksei Karenin, played by Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes franchise, Enemy at the Gates). High society was spun into a frenzy when Anna, played by Keira Knightly (A Dangerous Method, The Duchess), was swept up into a torrid affair with the well known Count Vronsky, played by Aaron Taylor (The Illusionist, Nowhere Boy). Keira has a gift for portraying emotionally distraught characters. Jude Law was excellent in his role, showing a restrained maturity. As for Aaron playing Count Vronsky, it was not convincing to me. It might have been because he looked too young or just did not have the acting skills to pull off the character. From the trailers I anticipated a classic story blossoming into a breath taking movie experience. Sadly, the movie was a big disappointment for me. Several times I caught myself beginning to nod off; I was bored for a good portion of the film. The theater within a theater filming made for a pretty picture; however, it made the story choppy. I would have had a better time getting that frail shoebox filled with family photos and going through the pictures again.

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

If I knew the world was coming to an end, no carb would be safe near me. Having had to spend most of my years thinking about what I was eating, I would consume anything and everything I could get my hands on. It really would be a dream come true. Right at the beginning of this movie we found out the final attempt to destroy the asteroid Matilda had failed. It was still headed on a collision course with earth. Dodge, played by Steve Carell (Date Night, Evan Almighty), and his wife (real life wife Nancy) heard the news while they were in the car. She bolted from the car in a panic, never to be heard from again. Even with such a morose topic, the humor did not seem out of place to me. When back at his apartment, Dodge witnessed his neighbor Penny, played by Keira Knightley (A Dangerous Method, Pride & Prejudice), breaking up with her boyfriend. From this point on I felt the story began to break down. With chaos exploding around them, Penny and Dodge wound up taking a road trip; he to find the first love of his life and her to get back to her family. Keira did a good job with what she was given in the script. She certainly has that single tear rolling down the face thing that Demi Moore used to be known for. My problem with this film was how scattered it came across. Going from funny to sad, improbable to silly; I quickly lost interest. Another reason could have been Steve Carell; he was not strong enough to be the lead in this role. And here again, I blamed the script for most of it. Sitting in my seat I was more preoccupied with seeking relief at the movie ending than the world coming to an end.

 

2 stars

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