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Flash Movie Review: Their Finest

UPBEAT and positive is how I would describe the man telling us about the changes in our office. We were being told how these moves decided by upper management would be a good thing for our company. I sat there with my fellow employees and I am sure they were thinking the same thing: who was going to get the ax. Maybe that is too harsh to say so here are some ways I have heard it expressed: laid off, let go, reassigned, reevaluated, eliminated and left behind. None of these terms warrant a happy face with optimistic comments. I used to work at one place that decided after many years to outsource their payroll functions. The staff for each manager had meetings set up to explain the changes in how we were going to be paid. You should have seen the spin job the managers tried to sell us. They talked about the convenience of looking up our paycheck online, the ability to schedule time off and the ease of changing our benefits package. I knew there had to be more to the meeting and sure enough towards the end the manager told us how salaries would be administered.     EVERYONE’S salary was scaled back to a standard base amount. From that point you would go up the scale depending on a number of factors; each factor was worth a certain dollar amount. I remember sitting there and quickly figuring out the math and realized a majority of us would be taking a rather large pay cut. There stood this person in front of us stating the virtues of this new pay system, doing their best to sell it as if it was the best thing since sliced bread. With me losing over 30% of my salary I had a hard time keeping my mouth shut and not stating the facts about their so called great new system. Let us face it; there is no good way to promote bad news.     WHILE Germany was dropping bombs on the city of London during the early 1940s, the defense department was working on a propaganda film in the hopes of drawing the United States into the war. All it needed was a woman’s touch. This film festival winner was part comedy, part drama and part romance. At first I felt the story was starting out slow but as things began to unfold I enjoyed how the writers were fitting together all the different pieces to create this enjoyable movie. Starring Gemma Arterton (The Voices, Gemma Bovery) as Catrin Cole, Sam Claflin (Me Before You, The Hunger Games franchise) as Tom Buckley, Bill Nighy (Love Actually, Pride) as Ambrose Hilliard/Uncle Frank and Jack Huston (American Hustle, Ben-Hur) as Ellis Cole; I thought the cast worked together beautifully. Bill and Gemma were the standouts for me. The script did a great job of balancing the elements of the story. Things moved naturally between the genres of drama, comedy and romance; there was the ever present war, but it never overshadowed the other story lines. I will say I thought the ending was a bit abrupt regarding one of the characters in particular; it felt somewhat false. However, as I sat and imagined what it must have been like back then, I realized there was no choice; the British government needed to stay positive.

 

3 1/4 stars  

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: Desert Flower

SITTING comfortably behind the steering wheel, cruising down the road, the celebrity driver was expounding on the finer things about the automobile. It almost looked like this was their main means of transportation. Now I do not care if a celebrity wants to earn income by doing a commercial; everyone deserves to make a living. Will this person persuade me to buy that type of car when I am in the market for a new vehicle? The answer is absolutely not. In fact that goes for any celebrity endorsement. Though I am a big fan of movies and such, I am well aware of the financial inequity between celebrities and let us say teachers. Not that there is anything wrong with making as much money as you can; however, I have a hard time with anyone who uses their position of wealth as a bully pulpit to tell everyone else what they should do. I have experienced this in my own circle of friends and family, where those who were financially well off starting acting like they knew everything and the rest of us were not as smart. That type of behavior is offensive to me.     THE area where I can support celebrities is when they use their wealth and status to help a cause they believe in. I know about one celebrity who works with an organization to bring clean water to third world countries. I remember when parts of Louisiana were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. There were celebrities down there helping and rebuilding houses; they had the means and connections to bypass the red tape to get things done. With some celebrities their support of a cause may be due to personal reasons; they could be experiencing it in their own family, for example a celebrity with an autistic child. Whether you feel the same way or not, I admire someone who overcomes challenges in their life to then become a social activist against those very same tribulations. What I saw in this film festival winning movie, which was based on a true story, both stunned and amazed me.     THIRTEEN year old Waris, played by newcomer Soraya Omar-Scego, had to leave her village in Somalia. What was done to her there would have a strong impact on her life when she made it to London. Before I talk about this biographical drama I want to say I have very little knowledge about the customs that were performed in this movie. They may be based on religious beliefs or native; I do not know and I do not want to offend anyone who believes in them. Starring Liya Kebede (The Best Offer, Lord of War) as older Waris Dirie, Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, Happy-Go –Lucky) as Marilyn and Timothy Spall (Denial, Mr. Turner) as Terry Donaldson; the actual story had to be more powerful than what the script provided here. The back and forth between the young and older Waris dampened the intensity for me. I had a hard time watching some scenes because I could not believe what was being done. The acting was fine; I have always enjoyed Sally’s performances and Liya was perfect in this role. Honestly I still cannot get over that this custom takes place in the world. This DVD provided me with a whole new respect for those who overcome difficulties in their life and decide they want to do something about it.

 

2 ¾ stars — DVD    

 

 

Flash Movie Review: A United Kingdom

FOR a brief moment that “look,” which I was familiar with, ran across the man’s face. He was standing in the checkout aisle next to mine. The only way I can describe that “look” is to say it was a cross between contempt and total disgust. Physically the eyes narrow, the muscles of the face slip down to the lower half of the head and the lips seal together in a straight line except for the hint of a curl at one end of the lips. I knew immediately why the man was making that face; it was because of the couple standing in front of me. They were an interracial couple. The look on that man’s face is the same type of look I have been given at various times. Once at the airport where I was sitting with a friend waiting to board our flight, he fell asleep and was leaning over onto my shoulder. A couple who was walking by looked down at me and made that look, uttering a sound of disgust. Another time I was doing volunteer work where we would work in pairs to canvass the neighborhood. I was paired with a woman from a different race than mine. You would not believe there were several people who answered their door, took a look at us and immediately made that face, besides only talking to me; they would ignore her more times than not. It was pathetic, appalling and many other adjectives.     WHENEVER I encounter this type of prejudice, I simply want to ask the “offended” person how that person you show disgust towards affects your own life. Why should it even matter to them if the couple is of the same gender or from different races; I honestly cannot understand why anyone would make a judgment about another person based on such things. It is sad that these personal issues are even being addressed. Now that I have seen this film based on a true story, I am even more astonished at the lunacy of people’s prejudices.     RUTH Williams and Seretse Khama, played by Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Pride & Prejudice) and David Oyelowo (Selma, Queen of Katwe), fell in love and eventually wanted to get married. Their marriage would have consequences for Seretse’s country of birth, where he was a prince. This film festival nominated dramatic romance was a wonderful film to watch. With Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Alistair Canning and Tom Felton (Harry Potter franchise, Risen) as Rufus Lancaster, the cast was well rounded and performed beautifully. I especially enjoyed David and Rosamund in their roles. Set in London initially during the 1940s, the scenes rolled in a gentle type of way that only accentuated the well written script. I have to tell you the events that took place in this biographical story stunned me; not that there was a sudden surprise moment, but the turn of events taking place on the worldwide stage solely due to a person’s skin color just blew me away. Those of you who know me know how much I enjoy seeing photos of the actual people the actors portrayed; this movie did not disappoint me. Nothing about this film disappointed me except seeing the narrow-mindedness of some people.

 

3 1/3 stars         

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Conjuring 2

The reason I enjoy a good suspenseful horror film is to experience the visceral emotions they produce inside of me. It is an adrenaline rush that gives me more energy; I find it comparable to the testing of the security alert system they do periodically on the radio. I feel a good fright from time to time keeps the body tuned up for life’s daily challenges. In the comfort of my theater seat I know what I am watching on screen has no actual bearing on my daily life. What I am seeing is not real to me so I know the feelings I experience during the movie are fleeting. I have been fortunate and hope I never have to personally experience actual horrors in my lifetime. I do not see how I could not mention the horrific tragedy that took place in Orlando, Florida this past weekend. It seems trivial for me to sit here and talk about a horror movie when I know many lives have been affected by the nightclub shootings. I am uncomfortable writing my review today when I know whatever things I mention about this film seem almost ridiculous to the realities of life presently. No matter the event, I am sure each of us has encountered some form of horror. Let us face it, life can be challenging. I thought I was done seeing the ugliness humans can inflict once I settled into middle age. Sadly it is not the case and in my opinion it appears to have increased in size. May love, kindness and acceptance for each other make us strong during this time. Thank you for listening to me; I felt I had to acknowledge the reality before delving into my escape into this picture.   STRUGGLING as a single parent raising her children Peggy Hodgson, played by Frances O’Connor (A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Bedazzled), did not know what was happening to her daughter Janet, played by Madison Wolfe (The Campaign, Joy). Her daughter’s actions would affect the entire family. This sequel grabbed the viewer immediately thanks to director James Wan (Saw franchise, Furious 7). Multiple scenes were ideally set-up to produce suspenseful results. Another reason why I was drawn into this movie was due to Vera Farmiga (Source Code, Up in the Air) and Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy, Watchmen) as Lorraine and Ed Warren. They really pulled as much as they could from the script which at times got bogged down in a repetitive mode. I felt the story went on too long; they could have cut out a couple of scenes that were just there to show another example for a similar event. From the first film I knew this story was based on a true story, but I had a hard time believing it because of the things I saw in this sequel. Yet when at the end of the film they showed the actual people the actors portrayed, it made for an eerie feeling inside of me. It is not often a sequel is better than the first film but overall this movie provided a good escape from the horrors of reality.

 

2 ¾ stars     

 

 

Flash Movie Review: London Has Fallen

There are people who live to work; there are other people who work to live. I fall into the latter category. The jobs I have are only a portion of who I am; they do not completely define me. The top 2 responses I get from people when I tell them I am a credit manager is either I must be a mean man or they would be afraid to show me their credit score. Neither statement could be further from the truth; it just so happens this is what I do during the day as is teaching cycling and yoga at night. There is much more in my life besides theses jobs. Now I know there are individuals who define themselves by what they do for a living. I find it humorous when someone announces their job title as if they are landed gentry or royalty. On the other hand I recently was talking to someone who was under stress because they could not let go of their job once they clocked out for the day. Their sleep was being affected, grinding their teeth to the point of waking up with severe pain in their jaw. The lack of sleep was making them sluggish throughout the day, causing their work to back up to the following day which was adding more stress and so on. It was becoming a vicious cycle. I do understand for some folk they love what they do, so their career shares the same space as their life. However, if one begins to lose their identity this could lead to the breakdown of boundaries between personal and business dealings. To see this all you have to do is take a look at the occupation of the main character in this action thriller.    FLYING to London to attend the prime minister’s funeral President Benjamin Asher, played by Aaron Eckhart (My All American, Thank You for Smoking), and his team found themselves in the middle of a world catastrophe that was planned especially for him. This sequel had returning cast members Morgan Freeman (Dolphin franchise, The Dark Knight franchise) as Vice President Trumbull and Angela Bassett (Malcom X, American Horror Story-TV) as Lynne Jacobs. The chase and fight scenes were intense; I especially enjoyed the one involving the President’s helicopter. When it came to the script I found it dreadful, filled with ridiculous prejudiced comments and generic catchphrases. For a crime movie all this picture provided was fight scene after fight scene for the most part. And something that I found to be the most unrealistic about these scenes were how in the middle of all these bullets flying around only the “bad” guys were getting hit but none of the good ones. It adds phoniness to the film in my opinion. The idea behind the story was interesting; unfortunately it just turned into a lame action picture. To tell you the truth the whole thing felt like the writers went on automatic to create this script.

 

1 3/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Moonwalkers

I was a window washer, a singer, a soldier, a mayor, an explorer and a spaceman. My imagination knew no boundaries when I pretended to be someone else. As far as I can tell, a vivid imagination is a vital component to the well-being of a growing child. I am sure all of us at one time play acted, becoming anything we wanted to be. It was so innocent back then in our childhood, too bad some individuals cannot keep that innocence in their adult life. There have been news stories about people who pretend to be high powered financiers, convincing innocent people to part with their money for huge gains they can attain with the help of the financier. It turns out these finance people were working a Ponzi scheme. I know this example is just one of many since there are all kinds of stories about someone impersonating someone else for their own gain. Now this pretending thing is not just exclusive to individuals; there have been some operations set up just to scam larger amounts of people. I remember reading about a so called pharmaceutical company that was selling placebos of the actual drugs patients required. On the flip side of this, what really blows my mind are the individuals who believe certain historical events never really occurred; that it was all made up. With the technology we have at our disposal today I am sure any group of people can create almost anything they want and just post it online. Can you imagine if you discovered something you thought was true was not?    CONCERNED the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission would not make it to the moon; CIA agent Kidman, played by Ron Perlman (Hellboy franchise, The Job), was sent to London to get director Stanley Kubrick to stage and film a pretend moon landing. Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances agent Kidman was stuck with rock band manager Jonny, played by Rupert Grint (Harry Potter franchise, Driving Lessons), to create a video of the first moon landing. This comedy had a fun idea as its premise. When you think about it this could have been plausible since who would be able to say no among the general public. I thought it was comical that the government wanted Stanley Kubrick to direct. The beginning of this film was enjoyable as the set designers and costumers correctly got the time period. As the story continued I realized the humor was not hitting the mark; there was a disconnect of tired scenes that seemed like they were copies of past better ones. Maybe the additional story lines burdened the original idea because I felt things were just going crazy. Besides I did not feel there was any chemistry between the actors and to be honest, I felt a little sad for Rupert. The writer’s imagination was in the right place, it just was not executed in the best of ways.

 

1 3/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Legend

If memory serves me correctly there was an old movie I watched a long time ago that had one actress playing twins. One twin was boisterous while the other one was reserved. I remember I was curious how the film crew was able to capture the two characters in the same scene. As I grew older I found out there were several techniques the film studio used to create such an illusion. If one of the character’s face was away from the camera, the studio would use a stunt double. Other tricks used were split screens and filming the scene twice using one character for the first portion and the other for the second. With that last option the two characters never came together physically; it was a well orchestrated event where exactly each one had to navigate around the set. This brings to mind a television show from the 1960s called Bewitched. The lead actress had a dual role when she would play Samantha and then her mischievous cousin Serena. Now yesterday’s review talked about futuristic objects becoming real due to mankind’s technical advances. The same thing can be applied to the way movie studios can make CGI and real characters mingle together. Amazing strides have been made in this area. One recent film comes to mind where Arnold Schwarzenegger fought a younger version of himself. It was a fun trick, though the younger version did not look totally human. I have to say with today’s review what I saw being done was phenomenal.    RONALD and Reggie Kray, played by Tom Hardy (The Drop, Mad Max: Fury Road), were identical twins who wanted to establish the biggest crime empire in London during the 1960s. The brothers could not have been more different on how they would go about to achieve it. Based on a true story this film festival nominee was all about Tom Hardy. His acting skills were stellar in this crime thriller. The magic of him playing twin brothers on screen was something to see. Their interactions verbally and physically were seamless. It was a good thing because the script was lacking substance. For two such extreme characters I never got a sense of their drive; they just came off crazy. There were times I felt I was just watching the highlights of the twins’ lives. In addition I had a hard time understanding one of the brother’s speech due to (for me at least) his thick, mumbling accent. Despite that the story was still interesting to me, appreciating as well the acting from the other cast members such as Emily Browning (Sucker Punch, Pompeii) as Frances Shea and Colin Morgan (Testament of Youth, Merlin-TV) as Frank Shea. The sets and costumes were perfect for the period in this dramatic biography. If you can handle the violence and blood, it is worth seeing the technical achievements and Tom’s acting in this movie.

 

2 1/2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

My obsession sprung out from one of my favorite children books, “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” The idea of hiding in a museum until after it closes fascinated me for a long time when I was a kid. Having visited the museums in my city numerous times, I credit them for helping my mind open up further into the world of possibilities. One museum had a real airplane suspended from the ceiling that I never walked under as I made my way to the gigantic train set, with its various locomotive trains traveling multiple tracks through manufactured landscapes. There was another museum that would transport me back in time to when Pharaohs ruled as I saw their wrapped remains resting in elaborate coffins. I would daydream about sleeping overnight in a museum; going on my very own treasure hunts as I explored the massive hallways that I just knew had to have secret passageways. They probably lead to secret underground laboratories and vaults. I was convinced there was a whole different world to explore behind the sculpted granite walls of all those museums.    SOMETHING was beginning to happen to the inhabitants of the museum that would affect their very existence. With very little time left security guard Larry Daley, played by Ben Stiller (Tropic Thunder, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), would have to travel to London, England to discover the reason why his friends were being robbed of their ability to come to life after dark. This latest adventure comedy, the 3rd in the franchise, saw the return of cast members such as Robin Williams (Dead Poets Society, August Rush) as Teddy Roosevelt and Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris, Wedding Crashers) as Jedediah; along with some new characters like Sir Lancelot, played by Dan Stevens (The Guest, The Fifth Estate) and Tilly, played by Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect, Bachelorette). For the life of me I had a hard time finding anything I liked about this stale film. Oh wait, the special effects were still fun even though I had seen them all before. The story and script were simply horrible. So pedestrian and plain, I could not find anything funny. There is a horrible expression that goes, “beating a dead horse” and I felt the movie studio was doing it with the release of this film. There was nothing new or exciting; it had all been done before, so what was the point? I will say most young children will probably like the film since it was colorful and took place in a fascinating place, a museum. On second thought, plan a trip to a local museum instead of going to see this movie.

 

1 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Quiet Ones

It was not a requirement but we all knew non-participation would affect our grade. The professor of my college freshmen psychology class encouraged us to enroll in the volunteer program for the graduate students. I remember some of the studies I volunteered for were interesting. There was one where I was sitting in the waiting room with another volunteer. We had a brief time for introductions before we were called into a room. A lab assistant handed each of us a pen and notepad. We were instructed to sit at opposite ends of the room and write down our perceptions of the other one. Once we were done the supervisor asked us to switch our papers. The facilitator then asked the volunteer to read what I wrote about him. I kept my comments to simple generalizations like he seemed nice, had a hearty laugh. When it was my turn to read aloud I was stunned by his words. He had written things like I did not seem to be very smart, appeared to be uncoordinated. After I finished reading, the person in charge asked me to address any comments I might have directly to the volunteer. Turning to him I let loose with such a profanity filled stream of intense anger that the supervisor could not calm me down until he finally admitted this had been a set up and the other volunteer was a graduate student, who was studying subjects’ reactions. I chose to opt out of the program. The test subject in this horror film inspired by actual events did not have the same opportunity. Jared Harris (Lincoln, Natural Born Killers) played professor Joseph Coupland who was convinced he could scientifically explain the irrational occurrences happening to test subject Jane Harper, played by Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel-TV). Settled in a London estate with his team, the professor had everything documented to film by student Brian McNeil, played by Sam Claflin (Snow White and the Huntsman, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire). But even some pictures could not explain what took place. The film work with its cool retro look created an interesting setting for this story. There were parts that were extremely loud which I could not tell was set by the movie theater or the film. Since I found aspects of the story far-fetched, the scare factor was somewhat diminished for me in this film. It was a shame because I liked the idea behind the story, having a central character trying to bring rationality to irrational acts. I am afraid this movie left me unimpressed. If you want to hear something scary, remind me to tell you about the time at school when they wanted to hook me up to electrodes. There were several scenes with blood in them.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Closed Circuit

It seems more so now than ever, higher profile crime stories are being reported in two versions. The first one covers the obvious details such as location, subject description and approximate time. After the crime scene has been secured and evidence collected, the public gets a second report that shares some of the classified details on how the crime was solved. With the advances in technology it appears to me the stories are getting more high tech. Now I am sure some details never get released to the public which may be part of the reason people are more skeptical, when it comes to news stories. Either way I find the high tech reports to be fascinating. If you feel the same way and like a good crime story then this movie is something you would enjoy. When a bomb exploded in a crowded marketplace, injuring and killing civilians; London authorities assembled an investigative legal team to uncover the motives, in preparation for a criminal trial. Part of the team included former lovers Martin Rose and Claudia Simmons-Howe, played by Eric Bana (Munich, The Time-Traveler’s Wife) and Rebecca Hall (Iron Man 3, The Town). Due to their past history together, they could possibly jeopardize the investigation as the trail of clues took them to unexpected places. I enjoyed this crime mystery film because it provided a stimulating rush to the mind instead of the ears and eyes. Without the use of special effects, the movie relied on dialog to tell the story, providing a stylish look in my opinion. The way the clues were uncovered meant I had to keep up and pay attention, staying engaged throughout the film. I thought the entire cast did an excellent job though I did feel the chemistry was lacking between Eric and Rebecca. Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady, Cloud Atlas) was interesting as the Attorney General as Riz Ahmed (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Four Lions) was, playing Nazaul Shama. As the movie progressed it started to confuse me. I do not know if it seemed more improbable, but I found it harder to follow. On the other hand as I was driving home from the theater I did wonder how much truth was there to some of the scenes I had just witnessed. A brief scene that showed blood.

 

2 1/2 stars

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