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Flash Movie Review: Thor: Ragnarok

SOME INDIVIDUALS WOULD FIND it frustrating; others would find it infuriating after a while. You are partaking in a serious conversation and someone makes a joke. There are times where telling a joke can be the perfect antidote to a tense conversation. In fact I am a big proponent of using humor to diffuse a situation or break the tension in a room. Dealing with tough and uncomfortable topics of conversation can quickly drain an individual; I am all for injecting a touch of humor just to give the participants a momentary breather before continuing their discussion. Pretty much any situation can benefit, at least in my opinion, from a chuckle or belly laugh depending on the circumstances of course. There was a funeral I attended where the service was filled almost to capacity with mourners. Right in the middle of the eulogy a family member made a comment that had everyone laughing, giving a needed respite from the sadness.     WHERE A SIMPLE BIT of humor can do wonders in a tense situation, a constant barrage of jokes and wisecracks can have the opposite effect. If it is just you and one other person going back and forth in a deep conversation, you can address it; however, when there are more people involved it can be tricky. When an individual keeps making jokes during what is supposed to be a serious conversation; I have noticed they are uncomfortable either with the topic being discussed or making themselves vulnerable. I know an individual who has a hard time discussing their feelings. When you press them on a subject they will relent and share something personal, but they do it in a hushed voice. I honestly do not know if they feel they are saying something “wrong” or afraid they will be made fun of; they even look uncomfortable. So they prefer to keep up a constant stream of jokes in the conversation to the point they almost overshadow the intended topic of discussion. I felt I was experiencing something of a similar nature during this action, adventure fantasy.     IMPRISONED ON A FOREIGN planet far from his home Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth (Ghostbusters, Red Dawn), must figure out a way to return before Asgard is completely destroyed. With Tom Hiddleston (The Night Manager, I Saw the Light)) as Loki, Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Carol) as Hela, Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park franchise, The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Grandmaster and Tessa Thompson (Creed, Dear White People) as Valkyrie; you could not have asked for a better cast of actors. Who knew Cate could throw down with the best of them as she emoted wicked evilness. I wanted to see more scenes with her. Everything you expect to see in a Marvel superhero movie was here from comic book author Stan Lee’s cameo to big CGI effects to 2 extra scenes during the credits. The only issue I had with this film was the use of humor; I felt the comedy aspect overpowered everything in this story. Do not get me wrong, a good portion of the scenes were fun and humorous but there was so much I felt it took away a little of the dramatic intensity the scenes required. I am sure I am in the minority regarding this but after a while I found the humor getting tedious. Granted since this was my only complaint I still enjoyed the whole movie watching experience and I can only imagine how much fun the actors had making this picture.

 

3 stars

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: Now You See Me 2

Unlimited possibilities wait for many rousing from their nightly sleep. For them their day begins with a blank canvas; they let the day lead in what activities and events will be chosen. It is a random process that involves some level of spontaneity. Imagine the freedom one experiences when they are not tethered to a schedule or list of chores for the day. It has been so long that I actually cannot remember if I have ever experienced that type of freedom, to wake up with the attitude that whatever the day brings would be fine. If I do not have a list of things I need to handle for the day, I at least have a mental plan of what I want to accomplish. I have mentioned before that people can set their watches by me; I am most comfortable when I am on my internal schedule. It frees me up from taking time out to make decisions since all of them were made when the schedule was created in my mind, so I can go on automatic. I know when I wake up the first thing I do is eat breakfast; aware no matter the time, when the clock reaches the noon hour it is time for me to prepare for my 2nd meal. Now the downfall to being this way is when something unexpected happens. An example would be my daily ride to the office. I take the same route every day, knowing when I have to get into the right lane to avoid being stopped by cars trying to turn left or aware where I have to swerve slightly to avoid a pothole. If something like a stalled car or broken railroad crossing backs up traffic and causes a detour, I am thrown off my schedule. Honestly, it is rough for me when things don’t go as planned which is why I can relate to the magicians in this action thriller.   AFTER lying low for a year the magicians called “The Four Horsemen” reappear for a spectacular magic trick. They were not expecting their trick to take them halfway around the world. The returning cast such as Jesse Eisenberg (American Ultra, The End of the Tour) as J. Daniel and Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers franchise, Infinitely Polar Bear) as Dylan Rhodes were joined by new characters Lula, played by Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield, The Interview) and Walter Mabry, played by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter franchise, Kill Your Darlings). There were the same spectacular magic tricks in this comedy but I missed the way they were explained as in the previous movie. The scenes were flashy but I did not like the camera work; some scenes were too frenetic for me. I could have handled all of this but because the script was such a mess I soon became bored with the story. There wasn’t the same sense of tense danger or excitement as the first film. In my opinion the writers tried to do too much to make this sequel “bigger” and it just did not work. I recently saw last weekend’s box office results and have to assume the movie studio was not expecting the results they got with the final figures.

 

1 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Spotlight

He would be the perfect candidate for a television game show, where the contestants guess the person’s occupation. The reason being no one would guess what he did for a living. With a physical shape more akin to a fireplug; he smoked cigarettes, drank and had a Napoleon complex. In other words, he was aggressive to compensate for his short stature. I was never comfortable around him; he would simply bark orders at everyone, barely hiding his mean streak that simmered just below the surface. Do you want to take a guess at his job title? He was a gym teacher; I hesitate to use the words physical education because he did not know much about health or the human body. There were classes where he would just throw a bunch of basketballs out into the gymnasium and tell us to shoot baskets. I think he only did this so he could sit in his office that had two windows covered with metal grates. If any students knew what he was doing in there they never shared their information. I never understood how this man kept his job. He would throw basketballs at our heads or body; in fact I know I must have mentioned this before, but he put one student up against the wall and kept throwing balls at his head while a majority of the students in the bleachers sat and laughed. How could a school system keep such a person in a position of authority who acted like this, like a bully.    INVESTIGATIVE reporters from the Boston Globe discovered a pattern of abuse taking place in their city, but no one seemed to be aware of it; or were they just not saying anything? This film festival winning drama was based on a true story. The actors assembled were all so equally terrific that I could not say one of them was the main star. There was Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, The Avengers franchise) as Mike Rezendes, Rachel McAdams (The Vow, Midnight in Paris) as Sacha Pfeiffer, Michael Keaton (Batman franchise, White Noise) as Walter “Robby” Robinson and Liev Schreiber (Defiance, Pawn Sacrifice) as Marty Baron. The script being crisply clean without any manipulations played out as a dramatic, suspenseful thriller. There was never a dull moment; every scene mattered and offered a piece to the puzzle the reporters were trying  to put together. I do want to say I was impressed with Michael Keaton’s performance because this role was such a contrast to his role in Birdman, yet he was equally as prominent. Everything worked in this biographical film from the direction to the acting to the action. Too bad it had this true story available to be turned into a movie; but I am glad they made it because not only is it a major topic, this movie version will be a major player during the award ceremonies.

 

4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Infinitely Polar Bear

There was nothing more exciting than having one of our parents be a chaperone for a school field trip when we were in the early grades of elementary school. I remember how proud each of us was when it was our turn to bring our mother or father along on one of those trips to the zoo, museum and other places around the city. Funny by the time we reached between 6th and 8th grade, the last thing we wanted was to have one of our parents show up anywhere near us, especially at the school dance. Heaven help us if they decided to go out on the dance floor and “cut a rug” as their child stood in horror, wishing they could melt into the floor. I think all of us at one point in our lives did not want our parents to be around our friends for a variety of reasons. No kid wanted their parent to call them by their pet name or ask nosy questions of their friends. I remember one friend who’s mother had to know where he was every minute of the day. If we were playing out in front she would periodically stick her head out the window to look for us. If she could not see us her yell could be heard down the block as she screamed out his name. There were some parents who were odd to us kids; we just chalked it up to them being old, old being a relative term here. As far as I can remember none of my friends’ parents acted like the one in this dramatic comedy.    MAGGIE, played by Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Words), was faced with a tough decision when she received her acceptance letter into the master’s program of the university. If she accepted she would have to go out of state to New York and leave her daughters Amelia and Faith, played by newcomer Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide (The Slap-TV), with their father Cameron, played by Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers franchise, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), who suffered with bipolar disorder. This film festival nominated movie was fortunate to have Mark play this character. He was exceptional in the role where I totally believed him. As for Zoe, I thought it was a smart move on her part to tackle this type of role and she was wonderful. The script overall was fine though there were a few times throughout the movie where things felt disjointed for me; I felt myself getting bored. Still on the strength of the acting from the cast, this comedic drama that I understand was based on someone’s childhood was a compelling watch. I totally understood why the young girls did not want to have their friends over to their house.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

The most important thing for some people is to maintain appearances. It is all about being a dutiful son, obedient daughter or the perfect family member; one must never air their dirty laundry, letting others see any cracks within the family unit. There was a family I knew that had a son and daughter. The two siblings never got along and would act out in some outrageous ways with no regard to personal or commercial property. Inside their home there were the usual scuff marks on the walls and floors. However there were a few unexplained holes in the walls too. If anyone visiting asked about the holes the stock answer given was a delivery man knocked into the wall. Regarding the siblings’ teacher/student conferences, whenever the parents were questioned about their children’s behavior they would blankly stare and say everything was fine at home. I never understood this type of logic, where people think it is better to just smile and say everything is fine than talking issues out. Just because family members may have some troubles between them does not mean they are no longer a unified family unit. Besides, don’t people root for those who come to terms with their issues, who reveal their real selves flaws and all?    UNBEKNOWNST to the other Avengers Tony Stark/Ironman and Bruce Danner/Hulk, played by Robert Downey Jr (The Judge, The Soloist) and Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, Foxcatcher), were working on a new technology that would help and maintain world peace. Instead it would facilitate the destruction of mankind. This action science fiction sequel had a lot of pressure to live up to its predecessor. What made this adventure film fun was the returning cast and their ability to do justice to the smartly written script. There was just the right amount of sarcasm, wittiness, pathos and excitement to keep the viewer entertained. A perfect example would be Robert Downey Jr’s character. His timing which was as impeccable as Jarvis’ (Tony Stark’s virtual assistant) diction was great when he had to deliver one of the clever quips or jokes. The cast really worked well together like a family, but I want to give an extra shout out to Mark Ruffalo and newcomer Elizabeth Olsen (Oldboy, In Secret) as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch. These two had a strong impact across the screen due to their acting abilities with their given lines. Now to the crux of why this sequel worked; the characters were allowed to show their flaws and insecurities; they were more real to us where we could sympathize with them. Personally I enjoyed the 1st film more than this one. Yes the action scenes were intense, the special effects were good and James Spader (Lincoln, Boston Legal-TV) was perfect as the voice of Ultron; but the story was a little too long and there was a feeling of familiarity, a sense of deja vu. However, by letting the characters show more of their baggage and flaws, I only wanted to root for them more. There was one extra scene in the middle of the ending credits.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Foxcatcher

It would be hard for some to understand the challenge if they did not know the burden. Living under the weight of expectations or in the shadow of an older sibling can add an unnecessary strain to one’s daily life. There have been studies that looked at siblings’ birth order as a means to understand the psychology behind each one’s actions. Quick examples would be the oldest one could become the caretaker or dominant one while the youngest had the least parental restrictions placed on them, becoming spoiled. I remember a college course where we dissected case studies of actual family dynamics. A couple had 2 sons where the oldest was their pride and joy; the other one was always being told to act more like his older brother. After the two boys reached their teen years, the first born was given a gun for hunting. Sadly a year or so later the boy killed himself with the very rifle his parents had given him. The parents were devastated as they plunged into despair and sadness. The living sibling was barely acknowledged at times. However, the following Christmas the parents presented him with a large gift wrapped present. When he opened it up he found the same rifle that his brother had used to kill himself. Think about the message the parents were sending their second child.    SUCCESS was hard to acknowledge when trouble was brewing underneath in this biographical drama. Based on a true story, winning the gold medal did not translate into financial success for wrestler Mark Schultz, played by Channing Tatum (White House Down, Side Effects). Living under the shadow of his older brother David, played by Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, Begin Again); David felt he was going nowhere until he received a strange phone call from financial heir John du Pont, played by Steve Carell (Get Smart, Dan in Real Life). David was offered the chance to train and lead an elite group of wrestlers towards gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The acting was incredible in this film festival winning movie. Steve Carell was utterly creepy in this dramatic role. Vaguely remembering the story about John du Pont I found this movie to be more of a psychological sports drama. Though it was directed by winning director Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote); I thought the film dragged, especially in the first half of the story. There were times the screen went dark without sound where I thought something was wrong with the movie projector; it did not help in the entertainment department in my opinion. This film had a thoughtful dark story that did not come up to the same level as the acting.

 

2 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: My Life Without Me

The sudden unexpected passage a person travels to death from life delivers a debilitating punch to those who remain behind. In that moment of stunned disbelief, memories pour down from your mind trying to fill the space emerging where the walls of your heart are crumbling into brittle chunks. There was no way you could have prepared yourself since the signs of dying never emerged from the individual. It is different when someone has been suffering from an affliction. You see the person morphing right in front of you into a stranger that bears little resemblance to who has been residing in your thoughts for all these years. In society we are led to believe the older generation is supposed to go first, followed by the next; it is the natural order of things we are told. I have experienced both kinds of death and though neither are easy, after seeing the one who had suffered a long time, I felt a sense of relief when they were done. If I were given the choice of knowing or not knowing when I was going to die, I honestly do not know if I could choose.    SADLY that was not the case for young mother Ann, played by Sarah Polley (Dawn of the Dead, Splice). After being told she only had a short time left to live, that jolt of information was what she needed to finally live her life. This film festival winning drama had an eclectic group of actors to help keep the story from turning into a melodrama. Musical artist Deborah Harry (Elegy, A Good Night to Die) played Ann’s mother, Scott Speedman (Underworld franchise, The Vow) played Don, Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction, Girlfriend) played Laurie and Mark Ruffalo (Begin Again, The Avengers) played Lee. Out of this cast I have to say Sarah and Mark were the best with their roles. It was interesting to me how the entire film had a general look of resignation due to the locale, the jobs and people’ attitudes; yet, there were strong connections made between the characters. Obviously Sarah was the focal point to the story, but her strong sense of practical resolve and determination helped to keep the story engaging. There were a few scenes that felt out of place to me, a couple of which were to the point of being non-believable. I know for myself this picture had an affect on me regarding my avoidance in thinking about the course of my life; it would be pretty hard not to think about it. Not that this was a bad thing, I felt this movie showed a true and honest way in dealing with one’s own mortality.

 

3 stars — DVD

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: Thanks for Sharing

A love relationship is very much like a tree. With care and affectionate nourishment the love grows, branching out to reach further up into the sky. Your relationship solidifies when the leaves open up to shelter and protect you from any harmful rays. Times of sadness come like changing seasons; shriveled leaves dropping like colorless tears. You gather them up and place them around the base of the tree to protect it like a warm shawl, warding off the cold effects of somber winter. The love and support you show will rekindle life into a new season of love. Like a tree one cannot pick and choose the parts they love and ignore the rest. Relationships go through many season of change; unconditional love is what keeps them strong. Love gets tested in this dramatic comedy about people and their addictions. The story centered around Adam, Mike and Neil; played by Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, Shutter Island), Tim Robbins (Mystic River, Jacob’s Ladder) and Josh Gad (Jobs, Love & Other Drugs), and the effect their different stages of recovery from addiction weighed on their relationships. The chemistry between Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man franchise, Country Strong) as Phoebe was sparkling real; I enjoyed watching both their playful and serious scenes together. There was an even pacing to the story where I never felt it becoming slow. I expected Joely Richardson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Event Horizon) as Katie to give a good acting performance which she did, but I was surprised at the screen presence from Alecia Moore aka Pink (Get HIm to the Greek, Catacombs) as Dede. Some of the humor was obvious, especially around Josh’s character Neil; it came across as cheap shots regarding Josh’s size. The writers did an admirable job for showing the characters’ addiction as a disease without it becoming a joke. That does not mean it was all seriousness; there were light threads of humor that never reached a higher level of laughter. Without saying it in so many words, I liked the way the theme of unconditional love played out in this romantic movie.

 

2 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Now You See Me

My first experiences with live magicians it turned out were not really performing magic. In fact, they were not even magicians. I would see them in stores surrounded by throngs of people. Each time I spotted one I would run up and join the crowd, enthralled with the magician’s flair during their presentation. I saw glasses that would never fog up, even if they were held over a steaming pot of water. There was the wonder knife that a magician would thrust up into the air to show its sharp gleaming blade, just before he used it to slice through a metal pipe. At the time I thought these individuals were doing magic; instead, they were product demonstrators. As a young kid I still could be entertained by the different demonstrations. It was the same feeling I had while watching this adventure film about illusionists. Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network, Zombieland), Woody Harrelson (Seven Psychopaths, Rampart), Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers, Home and Away) and Dave Franco (21 Jump Street, Warm Bodies) played street performers who became The Four Horsemen, a popular magic act that appeared to rob a bank in the middle of their act. Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Shutter Island) played FBI agent Dylan Rhodes who was determined to catch the illusionists, but always it seemed was a step behind. Even with the help of Interpol detective Alma Dray, played by Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds, Beginners) and magic debunker author Thaddeus Bradley, played by Morgan Freeman (The Prestige, Children of Men); it still seemed as if they were just pawns in the Four Horsemen’s high stakes game. The movie started out strong and fast; it was easy to keep up. The magic tricks kept getting bigger and more elaborate as they were expertly performed by the four actors. Everything was working to make this film a fun exciting experience to watch.  But halfway through the story it became unfocused and lost steam. The quick editing and shifts in the story became too much to handle. Frantic pacing only deflated the thrills; I started to get bored. Now I may be gullible when it comes to magic, but I know when smoke and mirrors are being used in an attempt to create a passable story.

 

2 1/2 stars

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