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Flash Movie Review: Personal Shopper

DEATH for some people is not always a permanent state. These individuals maintain their bond to the deceased, though it is not necessarily reciprocal. They may talk to their loved one every day, bringing them up on current events or asking advice on an upcoming decision. I had a relative who went to see her mother every single day, having on hand her mother’s favorite coffee and sweet roll. She would park on the side of the road and walk over to a congested area of headstones. With her folding stool, thermos and the plastic bag that carried the sweet roll and napkins; she would sit by the side of her mother’s grave and pour each of them a cup of coffee. Setting the cup down on the headstone, she let her mother know she brought her favorite sweet roll; she placed the item on a small paper plate to then join the perched cup of coffee. This ritual took place every day and after she had spent an hour or two, she would drink up the coffee from her mother’s cup and ask her if she was done with her sweet roll. She would tear the sweet roll into pieces and once she was outside of the cemetery would scatter the pieces by a tree for the birds.     I am a firm believer whatever means a person needs to do to deal with death is fine with me; I do not judge or question. Everyone deals with death in their own way. Also, I feel anything is possible. Recently a friend of mine had died after a year long illness. After notifications went out to family and friends, a few days later out of the blue my friend’s cell phone rang with an unknown phone number. There was no one on the line when the call was answered. You want to talk about an eerie moment? Well someone close to the deceased who is in mourning could see the call as a sign. I could easily understand their thought process with this incident. If you choose to watch this mystery thriller, be prepared to experience something unearthly. Or is it really?     WORKING as a personal shopper Maureen Cartwright, played by Kristen Stewart (Certain Women, The Twilight Saga franchise), was convinced her deceased brother was trying to contact her. This film festival winning drama also starred Lars Eidinger (Everyone Else, Clouds of Sils Maria) as Ingo, Sigrid Bouaziz (Portrait of the Artist, The Tunnel-TV) as Lara and Anders Danielsen Lie (Reprise, Herman) as Erwin. I have not always been a fan of Kristen Stewart, but I have to say this was one of her best roles. She pretty much carries the interesting story. Watching this movie was like riding an amusement park’s roller coaster; not the big major ones, but the ones that give you a thrill but do not let your stomach move up into your throat. At first I was not getting settled into the story since the script kept things somewhat sparse. But then layer by layer I found myself drawn into the surreal story. I enjoyed the directing in this picture; but at times the script became muddled and fell apart. The concept of the story interested me overall, because as I said you just never know.

 

2 ½ stars    

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

THERE is nobody I know who wants to hear “bad” news. I do not think anyone would like to receive such news. What I find interesting is the way people react to such news. There are families who do not acknowledge news of a loved one’s illness. They may hear a relative was diagnosed with cancer but they do not know how to react or act on such news. The relative may go on their journey towards death without having the support and love of their family members, not out of hate only ignorance, who do not know how to make things better. Sadly you cannot always make things better; however, lending an ear or bringing a cup of ice chips to the dying relative could make a world of difference.   WHEN it comes to the general public I am not sure if “bad” news is always reported honestly by the media. Sure they are quick to report a tragedy, let us say an earthquake or flood, but the focus seems to go to what will grab a viewer’s attention or heart strings. A small child saved from the roof of their home would make good story; but not an individual who was struck with a debilitating injury from the catastrophic event, who will no longer be able to perform their job, facing a life of poverty. Now I know there have been times where this is not the case, just recently seeing these “Go Fund Me” pages would be an example of getting the word out. I think the influx of reality television shows and the various social media outlets have warped people’s perceptions of basic truth. It is because of this movie that I have been thinking about this subject. We may want to only celebrate and focus on the positives, but the reality may not always match the cheering.   RETURNING to the states for a short victory tour Billy Lynn, played by relative newcomer Joe Alwyn, had one person who did not want him going back overseas after the celebrations; his sister Kathryn, played by Kristen Stewart (Café Society, Still Alice). This film festival winning war drama directed by Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Taking Woodstock) was filmed by a new process using a high frame rate. It made this picture look like a live television show is the only way I can describe it. Personally I found it a big distraction and did not like the look it created on screen; there was a harsh sharpness to the scenes, but that is simply my tastes. With Garrett Hedlund (Pan, Unbroken) as Dime, Steve Martin (The Pink Panther franchise, Cheaper by the Dozen franchise) as Norm and Vin Diesel (The Last Witch Hunter, Fast & Furious franchise) as Shroom; the acting was good but the script did not provide enough for the actors. At times there were scenes of brilliance but then another scene would fall flat. I did not think the story offered much for the viewers; I was left with a bored feeling, wishing I knew more about certain characters and their motivations. Overall the viewing aspect was not pleasant to me and if this technique of shooting a film is going to be a reality, then I want fantasy.

 

1 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Certain Women

THEY had me at the word chocolate. Friends were telling me about this new food product at the store; wait, they were raving about it as they kept saying I had to try it. So the next time I went to the grocery store I found this product and brought it home. I decided to forgo my chocolate ice cream for dessert so I could have this potentially tasty new treat. Opening the bag I stuck my hand inside and withdrew what I hoped would become a staple in my approved foods repertoire.   MY first bite was met with a textured crunchy surface. The chocolate taste at this point was diminutive. As I started chewing my taste buds were met with a stronger, darker chocolate which I always enjoy. However there also was another taste in the mixture that I could only describe as man-made or artificial. It was not pleasant and turned me off. But how was this possible; my friends were gaga over this product, convinced I would love it. I sat and wondered if there was something wrong with me; maybe my prior meal screwed up my taste buds. So I decided to try another piece after I rinsed my mouth with a swig of fresh water. The second piece had the same effect on me; I did not like this new product at all. Because I am a bit crazy when it comes to chocolate I decided to bring the bag with me to a get together the next day to see how others would react to tasting this item. Let me fast forward to the end of this story; it turned out a majority of the people did not care for the item, though several thought it was excellent. I cannot say this validated my feelings about this chocolate creation; but I just wanted to know why my friends from yesterday liked it so much. Well I felt the same way about this dramatic film; I just did not get it.   THREE women each in their own way are looking for a way to connect in the vastness of Montana. This film festival winner starred Laura Dern (The Fault in Our Stars, Blue Velvet) as Laura Wells, Kristen Stewart (Still Alice, Clouds of Sils Maria) as Beth Travis and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Shutter Island) as Gina Lewis. My favorite segment was the one with Laura Dern. I honestly did not understand the accolades this film had been receiving. Yes it was beautifully filmed; the acting was good, but I did not find this entertaining. Because of the positive buzz around this film I actually went back to see it again, thinking I must have missed something. After a 2nd time I still can say I did not care for this picture. It was slow and though things happened throughout the movie they mostly were done in a too subtle way. I even asked the usher afterward about the movie since many critics had praised it and do you know what he said? He said most people walking out complained about the movie being boring and dull. So there you have it; maybe you will see something I did not.

 

2 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Cafe Society

The two had grown up in the same small city, got married and had adequate jobs. Upon first look their life together looked fine. Truthfully there was nothing wrong except their dreams and hopes eventually outgrew the city. Each of them wanted something more. They knew it was time to make a change; so they pared down their belongings and moved out of state to a large metropolitan city. Going from a quaint colonial style house to a 2 bedroom walk up apartment was an adjustment; but it was worth it because their new city could support their dreams. After finding jobs and settling into the rhythm of their new life they explored the city, started doing volunteer work and signed up for various meet up groups; all in the hopes of expanding their social network. As time went on one of them was earning some success at their job, advancing up the ladder as they say. The other did not have such luck and started to feel they were reaching a dead end. With all the expenses of living in a big city compared to their hometown, quitting a job was not in the cards just yet. The two maintained a strong supportive bond between each other, but their shared responsibilities started to go out of alignment. As the one was gaining financial success the other only had incremental raises. The financial divide kept growing to the point where a discussion ensued about remaining in the city. Where one was finally reaching some of their life’s goals, the other felt the city could not offer them what they needed to succeed. It was a conundrum.   HOPING to find success Bobby Dorfman, played by Jesse Eisenberg (The End of the Tour, Now You See Me franchise), left his home in the Bronx and moved out to Hollywood. It could not hurt having an uncle out there who was a famous agent. Written and directed by Woody Allen (Midnight in Manhattan, Magic in the Moonlight) this comedic romance had a spectacular look to it. The 1930s décor and style made this film a real treat to watch on the big screen. The perfect accompaniment to the visual aspect was the soundtrack; I thoroughly enjoyed the jazzy music. Starring along with Jesse was Steve Carell (The Big Short, Freeheld) as Phil Stern, Kristen Stewart (American Ultra, Still Alice) as Vonnie and Blake Lively (The Shallows, The Age of Adaline) as Veronica. Though I enjoyed all of them I have to say if they ever decide to do a film biography of Woody Allen then they need to cast Jesse. Using Woody’s words Jesse was perfectly cast in this film. There were parts in this movie where Woody was doing narrations and when the scene moved to Jesse talking it was almost identical in speech. The script was fun with some excellent lines in it, though I did find it somewhat predictable. For a Woody Allen comedy this was more like a light version. I felt there could have been more to mine in the story. It was great film to watch and listen to; I just wish it would have succeeded more in telling a good story.

 

2 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: American Ultra

You think you know someone and then all of a sudden they share something about themselves that changes your perceptions about them. Thinking an individual is a cheapskate only to find out they volunteer their time weekly at a food bank has to make one modify their feelings about that person. I remember this individual who always appeared to be fearful, never able to make a decision because they were afraid they would be making the wrong choice. Fast forward several years I come to find out this person picked up and moved to Europe for a job as a critic for a newspaper; I was absolutely stunned. Heck, I suffered weeks of anxiety just to move to a different neighborhood of the city. When the people we have to change our attitudes about are not directly connected to us, we do not suffer any ramifications. But when it is someone close, it can have a life altering effect on us. Being in a committed relationship for several years, you would think you know someone pretty well; I know I did. Imagine you find out they did something that caused a monumental shift in your relationship, like gambling away your entire savings without you ever knowing they had a gambling problem or they had been carrying on an affair with one of their coworkers, This type of news can be devastating to the point where one may never be able to recover from it. The young couple in this action comedy had a similar dilemma.    Laid-back and usually stoned Mike Howell, played by Jesse Eisenberg (The End of the Tour, The Social Network), did not understand why people were trying to kill him. His girlfriend Phoebe Larson, played by Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria, Twilight franchise), wanted to know where Mike learned how to defend himself. The concept for this movie was only good because of Jesse in the role. Being such an affable and likable guy, the idea of him being a fighter was something I would never associate with him. Along with Connie Britton (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Friday Night Lights-TV) as Victoria Laseter and Topher Grace (Interstellar, Spider-Man 3) as Adrian Yates, I thought this film was an uneven mess. There were parts that were fun and exciting but then other areas made no sense and were dull. Topher’s character was annoying to me; I could not figure out if he was supposed to be a joke or not. If it was not for Jesse I would have been totally bored by this comedy, that did not have anything especially funny in it. So it turns out I thought I was going to see an exciting comedy movie and wound up seeing neither. There were several scenes with blood and violence.

 

1 3/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Clouds of Sils Maria

There is a lot of history that can be found in my collection of clothes. I still have this habit I have been trying to break, where I keep clothes even if I do not wear them anymore. From my years where I was struggling with my weight, I was fluctuating between sizes. Back then I had this thought that I should keep the clothes that do not fit because there could be a point in time where they would fit again. So you see no matter what size I was back then I could always find a pair of pants and a shirt that fitted me. I have been the same size for some years now, but I still have these old clothes hanging in closets, in the attic and in the basement. Once in a while I come across an article of clothing that has a story behind it. There was this copper metallic looking pair of jeans I bought just to annoy someone who kept telling me how I should dress. I still have a navy blue, pullover sweater that got its hole in the back when I lost my footing on a mountain trail and slid down until a big rock stopped me. When I am going through my clothing I can look back now with aged eyes at some of the things I had done and wonder what the heck was I thinking back then. I would like to say one gets wiser with age but that may not always be true.    INTERNATIONAL celebrity Maria Enders, played by Juliette Binoche (Chocolat, Godzilla), needed time to wrap her head around the idea of starring in a revival of a play she did 20 years ago that made her a star. The only difference this time was the role offered to her was the older character. This award winning drama had genuine power due to its cast. Juliette was outstanding in the role as her character had to face changing times; it was a universal theme that was relatable. The biggest surprise for me was Kristen Stewart (Still Alice, The Runaways) as Maria’s assistant Valentine. This was one of Kristen’s best performances and keep in mind I have not been impressed by her for some time. Rounding out the major players was Chole Grace Moretz (The Equalizer, If I Stay) as Jo-Anne Ellis; she was wonderful, also. The actors were provided with a good amount of substance from the somewhat lengthy script. I felt there were a couple of places that could have been edited out. With some spectacular scenery, good acting and an interesting subject; I felt this movie had some of the good qualities of a fine aged wine. There were several scenes that had French and German spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 1/3 stars

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: Welcome to the Rileys

When a loved one that was part of your life is no longer there, the unconscious breath becomes a daily chore. The echo of your heartbeat has stopped reverberating in the soft walls of your mind. Each following day, the weight of your body remains rooted in your legs, forcing them to struggle whenever you are in an upright position. Your pristine eyes that were clear and bright, only record blurred moist images now. I have been there and I am sure many of you have been too. That is why I could understand the couple’s pain regarding their loss in this dramatic movie. Married couple Lois and Douglas “Doug” Riley, played by Melissa Leo (The Fighter, Frozen River) and James Gandolfini (Killing Them Softly, The Sopranos-TV), were only going through the motions each and every day after the death of their daughter. The two were not really living anymore. On a business trip to New Orleans, Doug decided he was going to stay after meeting young stripper Allison alias Mallory, played by Kristen Stewart (Twilight franchise, The Runaways). By discovering what he was missing, could Doug begin to live again? Creating such broken characters and then letting James and Melissa delve into them, made for a powerful performance. I could feel how their pain was keeping them stagnant. Though I am not a fan of Kristen’s acting, I will say her style of performing lent itself to making her character believable for me. At times I had to wonder if some of the trio’s acting was being ad libbed because it came across as natural conversation. This Sundance Film Festival nominee was a surprise find for me. I did not have to understand how Doug and Lois dealt with their loss; I just wanted to be there for them.  Strong language.

 

3 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 2

Heads will roll if you mess with Bella’s child…and they certainly did in this final chapter of the movie series. After yesterday’s review that talked about the bond between mother and child, we have here another example of a parent’s love for their offspring. In this movie there was a new and improved Bella, played by Kristen Stewart (Snow White and the Huntsman, The Runaways). With the birth of her daughter Renesmee, Bella would need to master all of her new found vampire abilities if she was going to keep her child safe. The reason being there was something special about Renesmee that threatened the Volturi and its leader Ado, played by Michael Sheen (Midnight in Paris, Frost/Nixon). Since I did not read any of the Twilight books I do not know how closely this movie followed the novel. The story picked up right where the previous film ended, with Bella having turned into a vampire. I had hoped with this new Bella there would have been a better acting job from Kristen, but that was not the case. She never looked happy, with only a couple of emotional facial expressions, that honestly looked like she was a mouth breather. Robert Pattinson (Water for Elephants, Cosmopolis) as Edward Cullen played the role with a slightly more relaxed feel to it. As for Taylor Lautner (Abduction, Valentine’s Day), he did not bring anything new or special to his Jacob Black character. The first half of the movie was slow for me. I found it to be syrupy and melodramatic, with its heavy musical accompaniment. What I found odd was how some vampires had unique special skills. It was as if the writers forgot they were dealing with vampires and writing instead for X-Men characters. The last half of this action film had a buildup of tension that led to an epic battle, with a couple of interesting twists thrown into the mix. On a whole the writers of this movie sucked the life out of the story, giving me only an ok movie experience. I was disappointed I could not sink my teeth into something good.

 

2 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Runaways

After trashing Kristen Stewart’s (Twilight franchise) performance in Snow White and the Huntsman, I found it an interesting coincidence that her movie The Runaways came in the mail this past week. Playing rocker Joan Jett, Kristen redeemed herself by doing a better job of acting here than as Snow White. This biopic was about the formation of the all girl band The Runaways. With the help of seedy manager Kim Fowley, played by Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, Revolutionary Road); Cherie Currie, played by Dakota Fanning (Man on Fire, The Secret Life of Bees), was brought in to be the sexy lead vocalist. How many of us can say they saw that musician or band before they became famous? I do not know whether everything in this movie was true; for example, Kim bringing in kids to heckle and throw things at the girls while they performed. Truthfully, it did not matter to me for the story kept my interest. On a sour note, I thought the directing did not serve this movie well. Seeing the abundance of drugs and alcohol that played a part in the girls’ every day life became monotonous for me. Seeing what these pioneers of punk went through, especially with Joan’s determination, I have a new appreciation for their music.

 

2 2/3 stars — DVD

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