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Flash Movie Review: Downton Abbey

SOME FAMILIES LIVED IN APARTMENT BUILDINGS like mine did, while others lived in houses; but it did not mean anything to any of us. Everyone was treated the same. I never thought a family had to be rich to live in a house; though, I remember some of my friends thought this one kid was snobby because his family owned a local food company. I remember seeing one of their products at the grocery store and thinking how weird it must have been for that kid to see his last name on all the containers stacked across one of the grocery store’s shelves. Outside of that, I do not recall anyone using their family wealth to make people think they were better than anyone else. It was in school where I learned about socio-economic classes; that people were categorized as being upper, middle or lower class. The concept was odd to me because I could not understand why the amount of money a person had was important. I never considered someone being better because they were wealthier. They could have a lot of money but still be a horrible person; there would be no way I would ever think they were better than someone who barely could cover their rent, as an example.      IT WAS NOT UNTIL AFTER MY school years where I saw how people treat other people, they deem poorer. I was at a wedding where I saw the bride’s mother treating the staff poorly. She was talking down to them as she grilled them on what they “needed” to do for her. Up until that point I had not seen this side of the mother who had always appeared pleasant and giving. Now, I was seeing this aggressive woman telling the staff if they wanted to get paid, they needed to make such and such happened immediately; it was an ugly scene. Another time I was teaching at a health club where the cliental came from all types of backgrounds. There were working class folks, retirees, business owners; you get the picture. I am not one to stereotype a person; but out of these different backgrounds, I could tell which person considered themselves to be above other people. They always dressed up for exercise class, wearing the latest fashion trends in clothing, tons of jewelry along with wearing make-up and perfume. You would think they were going out for the night to a social event. I found the whole concept perplexing. However, in this comedic drama I understood it better because the times were different back then… or were they really?      EXCITEMENT FLOODED THROUGH DOWNTON ABBEY WHEN a letter was received, announcing the King and Queen would be coming for a visit. The family and staff would discover things they never knew before. With Michelle Dockery (Anna Karenina, Non-Stop) as Lady Mary Talbot, Matthew Goode (Stoker, Official Secrets) as Henry Talbot, Tuppence Middleton (The Imitation Game, Sense8-TV) as Lucy Smith, Maggie Smith (The Lady in the Van, Quartet) as Violet Crawley and Elizabeth McGovern (Once Upon a Time in America, The Chaperone) as Cora Crawley; I first have to tell you I have not seen the television show that this film was based on. The movie was beautifully filmed and scored, with wonderful set designs and costumes. This made for a perfect period piece film. Now the fact I am not familiar with the characters, I felt I was at a disadvantage; I did not know the history of each character, so did not feel as connected as most of the audience did in the theater. Story wise the plot was easy and fun to follow. For me, it seemed as if there were such a variety of story lines that nothing felt fully developed to the point where I could make a connection. There definitely was a soap opera quality to this picture, where I could see why it made for a popular television series. I am glad I saw this movie but did feel I was more of a bystander than a guest at the party.

 

2 ¾ stars                                                        3 ½ stars – fans of the TV series

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Flash Movie Review: Official Secrets

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

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Self/less

I do not know if everyone feels it at the same time or if they have a sense of it at all. When one is able to experience that feeling of being invincible or powerful, it can be intoxicating. For me it happened when I worked with a personal trainer for a weightlifting regime. It was surreal for me because not only had I never felt comfortable in my own skin prior, I now was working out among my peers without judgements. The aerobic classes I taught took on a new level of intensity. Some time later a subtle reality check began to settle into my consciousness. I started to become aware of how my body was reacting to the high jumps and kicks, so I added more low impact options. At some point I started to notice any scratches or scrapes on my skin took longer to heal; it appeared as if my skin would not let go of these cuts, keeping the scab’s impressions on my less taut skin like shadows. As time went on I realized I could not lift the same amount of weights I used to, nor run as fast on the treadmill. Maybe because one of the fitness centers I taught at was affiliated with a hospital, but I accepted it as a part of the aging process. Seeing heart and stroke patients struggling along the track or on a weight machine kept things in perspective. Though I have to say there were times I thought it would be wonderful if we could trade-in our bodies for a fresh one. This science fiction film will show you one way it can be done.    WITH disease consuming his body wealthy real estate tycoon Damian, played by Ben Kingsley (Shutter Island, Hugo), discovered there was a way he could beat the illness and continue to live. He could trade-in for a new body, but how would his mind handle it? The idea for this story offered a multitude of possibilities on where the story could go. With Ryan Reynolds (The Proposal, Buried) as a young Damian and Matthew Goode (The Imitation Game, Match Point) as Albright, I enjoyed the beginning of this mystery movie. Unfortunately the story took an odd turn and lost its way; I was not sure if this film wanted to be a love story, action movie or suspense thriller. It did not take long for me to lose interest and was able to figure out what was going to happen. Out of the cast I would have preferred more scenes with Ben, but I did enjoy watching Ryan as he tried to convince people of his true identity. At first glance this film looked like a fresh take on a the aging process, but it did not have much life to it.

 

2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Belle

Searching through several sources I did not find where the word “different” was defined as being a bad thing. Some of the items I read said different was not being identical or alike in character or quality, to be separate or distinct; I did not find anything that conveyed a negative connotation. What I found troubling was when being different evoked hatred. Unaware of what started this phenomenon or even when it began; I just found it to be vulgar and ignorant. One of the scary aspects of this different/hatred connection is when an individual is filled with hatred. I hate sauerkraut but that hatred does not fill my veins up, fueling me to go off on someone who likes that shredded jellyfish looking stuff. It is disturbing to witness someone treating a person with disrespect simply because they are different. In my previous review I talked about being a disposable society; I was referring to manufactured products. What struck me in this movie, based on a true story, was how people could be considered disposable. The script for this film festival winner began when the writer saw a painting she found odd. Her exploration into the creation of that artwork spurred her to develop this amazing story. Matthew Goode (Stoker, Watchmen) as Captain Sir John Lindsay was the father of an illegitimate, mixed race daughter named Dido Belle Lindsay, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Larry Crowne, Odd Thomas). Soon to command a ship in the royal navy, Sir John Lindsay had to leave his daughter with his aunt and uncle, Lady and Lord Mansfield, played by Emily Watson (The Book Thief, War Horse) and Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton, The Lone Ranger). The presence of Belle would be a concern for Lord Mansfield who happened to be the chief justice for the British courts. Why this beautifully told drama was special was due to the story being set in England during the 1700s. Slaves were a commodity that could be bought, traded or discarded. The richly detailed scenes and the way the story unfolded swept me in, filling me with emotions. I believed in the characters due to the strong acting from the cast, which also included Miranda Richardson (Empire of the Sun, The Crying Game) as Lady Ashford and Sam Reid (The Railway Man, Anonymous) as John Davinier. With strong elements I found it surprising how the story was still able to convey a certain delicateness. Still fresh in my mind after the movie ended, my thoughts lingered on how we have advanced as a society. However, I am very much aware there is still a deep hatred prevalent towards those who are different.

 

3 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Stoker

You can run but you cannot hide from your gene pool. I am well aware of it. Being in a family with a history of high blood pressure was one of the reasons I became a group fitness instructor. Besides the health aspects from acquired genes; there are the, shall we say, odd similarities that can be found among family members. Though my brothers and I do not look alike, we share some common patterns in our behaviors. In my extended family I can find certain similar peculiarities among siblings. For the Stoker family there was a deep darkness that ran through their gene pool. After her father died in an auto accident; the mourning India Stoker, played by Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre, Lawless), was surprised to find out her father had a brother. The first time she met Uncle Charlie, played by Matthew Goode (Match Point, Watchmen), was when he showed up to stay at her house after the funeral. India’s grieving mother Evelyn, played by Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy, Moulin Rouge), gladly took in Charlie, hoping to find comfort from her loss. Despite finding a strangeness to Uncle Charlie, India became intoxicated with his different ways. It was curious to India why she never knew of him and why he entered her life now. From Korean director Chan-woo Park (Thirst, Lady Vengeance), this film had a rich subtle moodiness to the scenes. I enjoyed the filming with its edge of off centeredness. The acting was wickedly wonderful; I really like Nicole taking on these different types of roles in her past few films. The reoccurring scene of India hunting with her father Richard, played by Dermot Mulroney (The Grey, About Schmidt), was a wonderful addition to the ultimate story. Even Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook, Animal Kingdom) as Aunt Gwendolyn was great, though the role was minor. What held this movie back from being an even better film was the script. There were unexplained situations and a slight lack of depth to the characters. The Stoker family was aptly named; just do not go diving into their gene pool. Brief scenes with blood.

 

3 1/4 stars

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