Flash Movie Review: Cocaine Bear
IT TOOK A FEW MONTHS OF convincing before I started eating tomatoes again ever since I saw them kill a human. Luckily, I only saw it happen on a theater screen on a Saturday afternoon. There was a small movie theater in my neighborhood; it was in the middle of the block with a discount store on one side and a liquor store on the other. Every Saturday they would have a kid’s matinee show for a discounted price and I was there at least two out of every four Saturdays of the month. I cannot remember ever seeing a film there I did not like during my childhood. Besides seeing those tomatoes that were attacking humans, I saw aliens from a different planet who all looked like they were clowns, evil clowns bent on destroying us. One week I saw the incredible shrinking man, the following one had an Amazon woman who was close to fifty feet tall. On the way home from the theater, my friends and I would act out a few of the scenes we especially liked from the movie. One of my all time favorite films from that time was a horror film with Vincent Price and Peter Lorre. One of them was a sorcerer and there was magician who I found out years later was a young Jack Nicholson. I was enthralled with the magic effects and curses; objects flying in the air and electric bolts coming out of extended fingertips. THERE WAS SUCH A HIGH LEVEL of comfort for me those Saturdays. I could always count on being taken to a different world or see my world from an alien’s perceptions. Yet, I felt safe with my box of popcorn and box of chocolate candy. It was years later when I came across the term “B” movie and understood most of those films I was watching back then were “B” films. None of them would ever be considered for an Academy Award; they had low production values and cheesy special effects. I did not know it back then, but the acting and the script were at a bare bones level, sometimes teetering on the absurd. But here is the thing, they were fun to watch. They usually could illicit an emotion out of the viewers; it might have been shock, fear or laughter, but there was always a reaction to what was coming across the screen. Presently, making a “B” film is being kitschy/retro. They can be over-the-top and fun as long as you do not give a lot of thought to the plot. If you are interested in watching a “B” film, this one certainly would fit the bill. WHEN A DRUG CARTEL LOSES A shipment of cocaine over a Georgia forest, the first to discover the drugs was a black bear. Anyone else coming near the drugs would have to deal with the bear who took a liking, some say addiction, to the cocaine. With Keri Russell (Waitress, The Americans-TV) as Sari, Alden Ehrenreich (Beautiful Creatures, Solo: A Star Wars Story) as Eddie, O’Shea Jackson Jr (Ingrid Goes West, Straight Outta Compton) as Daveed, Ray Liotta (Something Wild, Shades of Blue-TV) as Syd, and Isiah Whitlock Jr (Da 5 Bloods, BlacKkKlansman) as Bob; this comedy horror was based on a true event which I have to say sounded crazy from the start. Directed by Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games franchise, Love & Mercy), this film does not take itself too seriously and that was fine by me. One must put reason to the side and just go with it, because it was a wild and entertaining viewing experience despite the scenes of blood, violence and gore. There were laugh out scenes mixed in with the great CGI display of the bear. I thought the kids were especially good in their roles. This was a steady to fast paced freaky, fun film with a stranger than truth story line. There were two extra scenes during the ending credits.
Flash Movie Trailer: Antlers
GROWING UP, I HAD A FRIEND who was embarrassed of her father. Without knowing his age, all of us felt he was the oldest out of any of our dads. Not that it was a big deal to any of us, but to her she felt uncomfortable by it. He did not participate in any of the school functions that involved any physical activity. I do not think that was an issue for my friend because I knew what bothered her the most about her dad; he spoke with a heavy accent. Being the oldest of his siblings, he tried taking care of them in their war-torn country after their parents were killed. Some of the siblings did not make it out when he was planning for all of them to immigrate to the United States. Out of all the fathers I knew, he was the only one with an accent. It did not bother me at all; I thought he was a sweet, quiet man who despite the circumstances dealt to him and his family, he did a wonderful job of providing for his children. They owned the apartment building they lived in, and the dad had other real estate holdings, so there was some sense of security for all of them. I can say as we all grew older my friend learned more about her family history, which instilled in her a strong sense of pride for her father. SHE WAS NOT THE ONLY FRIEND I had who was embarrassed of their parents. There was the friend whose mother enjoyed participating in school functions. However, she would always come dressed inappropriately. Added to that was her over the top, loud personality. Many of the other parents tried to avoid her. Either she was oblivious or just did not care, because she never wavered in her choices of clothes and level of outrageous loud bantering. My friend would try to steer us in a different direction to avoid her mother anytime she showed up at our school. I remember one time at a school carnival, I spotted her manning the ball toss booth. From my spot away from her, I could see what she was wearing had to be upsetting some school officials. And sure enough, as I was walking towards her to say hello, our principal walked up to her and said she would have to cover herself up. I do not know if she expected it or not, but she bent over and took a sweater out of her bag. The principal told her to keep it buttoned up or she would have to leave the school. I never mentioned this to my friend. I am sure many of us at one time or another found something our parents were doing that was embarrassing; however, I do not think it was on the scope of what the young boy was experiencing in this dramatic, horror mystery. WHEN MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER JULIA MEADOWS, played by Keri Russell (Dark Skies, Free State of Jones), notices one of her students withdrawing more and more from the classroom lessons, she takes it upon herself to find out what is going on. However, she does not understand there is a reason why her student doesn’t want her to get involved. With Jesse Plemons (The Power of the Dog, The Irishman) as Paul Meadows, relative newcomer Jeremy T. Thomas as Lucas Weaver, Graham Greene (Wind River, Dances with Wolves) as Warren Stokes and Scott Haze (Venom, Child of God) as Frank Weaver; I found this film played out more like a suspense story than horror. However, there were a few gory scenes with blood. There is something about Keri that I always find believable, and in this story, she was quite good. Add in Jesse and I did not mind the slower pace because the 2 actors were excellent together. The buildup of tense suspense was well done, and I feel it helped as two story lines were vying back and forth. Compared to other movies in this genre, this one is not the greatest; but it still entertained me. There was nothing here that the writers and director would find embarrassing.
2 ½ stars
Flash Movie Review: Free State of Jones
One of the bonuses for being in my career positions is being able to communicate with people from every continent except Antarctica. My fascination with other countries and cultures dates back many years. What I have learned is everyone shares the same basic concerns and joys of life, albeit in varying degrees. For me the physical differences associated with one’s race just tell me where their ancestors were born; otherwise, they mean nothing to me just like the color of one’s eyes. Walking through my local grocery store is like taking a free global trip without the jet lag. Down one aisle I will find products from Asia, followed by items from the southern part of North America down to South America. I enjoy watching the shoppers peruse the shelves and sometimes I even ask them about a product I am curious to try. Here is a little known fact about me; very few people in my circles know I go up to help people who appear to be lost or attempting to figure out where something is located. In the old days it was obvious when they were holding a map. Doing this is a great way to learn something new in my opinion. All of this makes up my world; the differences and commonalities between all of us. As generations move up the age ladder my concern is our history gets less important or even forgotten. An example would be a generation several times removed from the generation that experienced an event of genocide. I believe we need to know our history if we are going to grow as civilized humans. To me a major asset is hearing about an event from a person who experienced it. After that person is gone we are left with visual history such as actual places, video/film and historical documents. This is why I feel movies like this one have a place in our knowledge of our past. CONFEDERATE soldier Newton Knight, played by Matthew McConaughey (The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club), came to the realization he could no longer be a part of the corrupt things he saw taking place. Based on a true story this biographical dramatic film kept my attention due to its story; in fact, I felt the story was the best part of the movie. With Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights, Concussion) as Rachel, Keri Russell (August Rush, The Americans-TV) as Serena and Mahershala Ali (The Hunger Games franchise, The Place Beyond the Pines) as Moses; the acting was solid though oddly I was not as impressed with Matthew as I have been in the past. Parts of the script were well focused and intense; however, the story line that involved a time in the future was a distraction for me. I think if the writers stayed in the one time period this picture would have had more impact. It was obvious what they were trying to convey but I would have preferred if the writers waited and made a sequel that dealt with that particular subject. Despite the tough and bloody scenes in this movie the story is a lesson about our history.
2 ¾ stars
Flash Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Before there were any scheduled play dates, before any friendships were formed and before there was the recognition of family members, there was a special steadfast presence in my young life. His name was Zippy and he was my toy stuffed chimpanzee. Waking up from a nap, my emerging gaze always fell upon the wide awake Zippy watching over me, his head lying close to mine. Dressed in red overalls he would always sit on my lap for a family portrait. He was my best friend, my protector, my guardian; he was always by my side. A few years had gone by before I found out how Zippy lost some of his fingers from his rubber hands. He was caught in the middle of a fight between siblings and had suffered a casualty. I found out he had been part of the family before I was born and had been handed down to me upon my birth. CAESAR in this action film reminded me of Zippy in some ways. Andy Serkis (The Prestige, The Lord of the Rings franchise) was unbelievable portraying the genetically altered chimpanzee Caesar in this science fiction sequel. Set 10 years in the future from the previous movie, mankind had been nearly obliterated by a deadly virus. Having seen no sign of a human for years, Caesar had become the leader to a colony of advanced apes who all lived peacefully together. Their world was about to change with the sudden encounter of Malcolm and Ellie, played by Jason Clarke (The Great Gatsby, Public Enemies) and Keri Russell (Austenland, August Rush). This intelligent exciting film got high marks for several reasons. The believable story made sense to me as it started out with a quick review of the previous movie before setting the stage to show-off its well thought out script. I especially enjoyed the acting from Jason and Gary Oldman (Paranoia, Lawless) as Dreyfus. What made this picture so special was the special effects. I sat watching this film amazed at how good everything looked. I could not tell if the apes were all CGI enhanced, done with makeup or if some actors were wearing costumes; it really was terrific. Besides Andy Serkis’ unbelievable performance I thought Toby Kebbell (War Horse, RocknRolla) was just as good as fellow ape Koba. There were only a couple of spots where I felt the story became sluggish; but they were so minor, it did not take away from the entertainment value. This was a case where the sequel was better than the original. There was scenes that made me nervously tense, excited, sad and happy; I only wished Zippy had been with me to see this great film.
3 1/2 stars
Flash Movie Review: Austenland
It took gaining more maturity before I stopped being judgmental about people’s hobbies or interests. When someone used to show me the items they collected, if it was not something that interested me, I would ask myself why anyone would collect such stuff. It did not matter if it was porcelain dolls, sports paraphernalia or ceramic elves; I had no understanding on what was the attraction. When I started working on my personal growth, something clicked inside of me. Who was I to judge someone on the things that brought them enjoyment? What I discovered was how much I admired the passion these people displayed when showing or talking about their interests. To be in touch with such feelings and find enjoyment in whatever it is you do, is something I consider to be a positive attribute. So when Jane Hayes, played by Keri Russell (Dark Skies, August Rush), decided to pursue her passion by spending her life savings on a trip to England, to submerge herself into the world of Jane Austen; I did not have a problem with it. Obsessed with the character of Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s book “Pride and Prejudice,” Jane wanted to find the type of love that would sweep her off of her feet. She was to find much more than that when she arrived at the Austen themed resort managed by Mrs. Wattlesbrook, played by Jane Seymour (Wedding Crashers, Somewhere in Time). I found the Jane Austen angle interesting in this romantic comedy. Maybe it was because of this theme, but I would have thought the producers would have hired the best writers possible to do justice to this movie. It did not happen; the script was stale and unimaginative. Jennifer Coolidge (Legally Blonde, Epic Movie) who I have enjoyed in the past, came across like a predictable cartoon character playing Miss Elizabeth Charming. As for Keri, this was not a good performance from her; I did not feel any connection to her bland character. The only one that came across with any real emotion was J.J. Field (Centurion, Blood: The Last Vampire) as Mr. Henry Nobley. It seemed odd to do a film about a woman’s passion for such an iconic author only to create a dull movie.
1 3/4 stars
Flash Movie Review: Dark Skies
At home, it is easier to turn up the music volume than to figure out the unexplained noises. This also works when I am driving my car. I think it is due to my imagination. When I hear an unfamiliar sound, my mind comes up with creative reasons to explain it that may not be based in reality. These days when I am home I either have the television on for background noise or I have music playing throughout the house. Unfortunately the suburban family in this suspenseful movie did not have such an option. Keri Russell (August Rush, Waitress) and Josh Hamilton (J. Edgar, Outsourced) played Lacy and Daniel Barrett, parents to two young boys. When a series of unexplained events began taking place in their home, Lacy and Daniel would eventually have to take extreme measures to protect their family. This scary film caught my attention right from the beginning. I liked the way the director built up the suspense, starting out slow with some creative ways of displaying the unexplained occurrences. As with Keri’s past performances which I have always enjoyed, I found her convincing in this role. What was a letdown for me was her chemistry with Josh. For some reason it seemed slightly restrained; I felt they could have been more dramatic as a couple. The use of J.K. Simmons (Juno, The Words) as Edwin Pollard was a lost opportunity. With his acting skills his role should have been bigger. As the story progressed in the last half of the film, I became disappointed with the way the suspense never increased. Based on the beginning of the movie I thought there would have been at least a couple of jump out of your seat type of scenes–it never happened. This film may not make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, but it was entertaining as a mystery. Two brief scenes with blood.
2 1/2 stars
Flash Movie Review: Waitress
Even with me not being a pie guy when it comes to desserts, this delectable movie made me hungry. The scrumptious looking baked pies added an extra richness to the wonderful story. Jenna Hunterson, played by Keri Russell (August Rush, Felicity-TV), was in a loveless marriage with her controlling husband Earl, played by Jeremy Sisto (Clueless, Into Temptation). Added to her misery was discovering she was pregnant with his child, extending or possibly cementing what she felt was her prison sentence. Only familiar with her work in August Rush, I was impressed with Keri’s acting. She was excellent in the role, beautifully displaying a full range of emotions. When she met new resident, Dr. Jim Pomatter, played by Nathan Fillion (Serenity, Castle-TV); little did she know how her life would change. Dreaming of having enough money to become independent and free of her husband, Jenna planned on entering one of her creations into the pie contest, with the hope of winning the 1st place cash prize. I was truly moved by this lovely, sentimental film. It was a shame Adrienne Shelly, the writer and director, did not live to see the finished movie about the strength of a sweet southern woman’s heart and her ability to pour it into her pies.
3 1/4 stars — DVD