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Flash Movie Review: Going in Style

NO matter how hard one works it seems as if that finish line keeps moving further away. I am referring to those plans put in place for retirement. Besides the big element of the “unknown,” the unexpected expense, it seems as if the rules and the times keep changing faster to any adjustments one tries to execute. The age of 65 used to be the goal line for retirement; now it gets pushed back depending on the year one is born. There is a grocery store I occasionally use that has a couple of small sections put aside for clearance items. One of them is in the produce section of the store and I have to tell you it is hard sometimes to watch the elderly shoppers pouring over the bruised or wrinkled fruits and vegetables, looking for one that would still be edible. I wonder what my retirement will be like when I am on a fixed income; would I be one of those shoppers looking for a bargain that potentially could make me ill?     AS my friends and I grow older our conversations about are retirement years has increased. Some amongst us have multiple insurance policies to cover a variety of scenarios; others have focused on savings that they will be able to draw on once they are no longer working. One of the big concerns we all share is whether we will be able to still live independently, under our own roofs. No one in my circle of friends has had something good to say about nursing homes unless they had a super wealthy relative, who could afford one of those luxury retirement communities set up like a condominium building. They would have to buy the apartment outright and when they died the living space would revert back to the association. Since none of my friends or me could afford such an arrangement, we have come up with some creative ways on how we could take care of each other. I will tell you the option that was chosen in this comedic crime film never occurred to any of us.     RETIRED friends Joe, Willie and Albert; played by Michael Caine (Inception, Batman Begins franchise), Morgan Freeman (Driving Miss Daisy, The Dark Knight franchise) and Alan Arkin (Get Smart, Argo); were falling deeper into debt. After witnessing a crime, Joe got an idea that would solve all three friends’ money issues. Directed by Zach Braff (Garden State, Scrubs-TV), the only reason to see this film is to watch these three actors, along with Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future franchise, Taxi-TV) as Milton and Ann-Margaret (Grumpy Old Men, Any Given Sunday) as Annie, working together. It would have been more interesting to watch them if the script had not stayed on the light side; the humor and emotional parts were rather wishy-washy. Putting aside my dilemma with celebrating crime situations, I thought the lead up story was a good motivator for the action. When the film came to an end I was left with the same feelings I had with yesterday’s picture, just a sense of “blah.” In my opinion it was a crime to have used these actors for such an uninspired script.

 

2 stars

 

 

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: Youth

It never occurred to me but the two attributes really do sit opposing each other on the scales of justice. On one side sits youth, ah youth the golden period where one feels invincible, has less fears, can survive on little sleep and has an indestructible skin that quickly removes any cuts or bruises. Settled on the other side is wisdom; now this one can be a bit elusive for some folk. Wisdom has a better understanding of one’s emotions; years of experience has ripened wisdom, allowing a majority of one’s decisions to become rational. I am sure like me you have heard a variety of ways people talk about aging, such as “youth is wasted on the young” or “growing old is not for the weak.” In my younger years I laughed at these outlooks, now I understand. Getting together with friends and family now includes conversations about medical issues. We compare drug prices or what new drugs we are taking, how many times we get up in the middle of the night, our new physical limitations; all such things are becoming constant companions to us. I am not saying I am smart by any means, but with the wisdom I have gained in my life I sure wish I still had a youthful body holding it. Not that I want to sit and wish I were younger, but it would be nice to have youth and wisdom share more time together instead of a fleeting moment as the scales of justice pass each other while slowly traveling to opposite sides.    LIFETIME friends Fred and Mick, played by Michael Caine (Harry Brown, Inception) and Harvey Keitel (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Piano), spend every year at their favorite resort in the Swiss Alps. While Fred is a retired conductor and Mick is always working on a new screenplay, the two friends were never too old to learn something new. This film festival winning drama had a wise cast of actors. Including Rachel Weisz (Oz the Great and Powerful, The Fountain) as Lena Ballinger and Jane Fonda (Nine to Five, Georgia Rule) as Brenda Morel, the acting was terrific in this pretty looking movie. Some of the outdoor scenes were breathtaking, where I wanted to go visit the place. Luckily this was a big plus for me because I did not care for the script. I not only found myself getting bored during several scenes, but some parts of the story seemed out of place to me. The story did not flow, it staggered along. I certainly appreciated the concept and idea of aging friends, but I was not feeling any deep connection between the characters. I have to tell you I was conflicted here. The wonderful acting, scenery and story sounded great but together it did not work. I have seen enough movies in my life to know the difference between an entertaining one or not and this one did not make it for me.

 

2 3/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Last Witch Hunter

 

Except when it concerns weight, most instances of loss more times than not are associated with sadness. Even from a scarf to a pair of sunglasses, I have never heard someone say they were happy about losing them. Sadness can be overwhelming when it comes to the loss of a loved one. And if the death was sudden like a heart attack, the survivors can experience shock along with the sad feelings flooding over them. Though I would never say anything, I never understood when someone would say, “We lost her/him today.” I have always wondered if people were just uncomfortable saying the word “died,” maybe because it sounds so final or abrupt as compared to passing away or gone. Now there is another aspect of loss that I think must be harder to deal with and that is when the death is unexpected. Maybe due to an accident or killing, I can only imagine how awful it must feel. There were a couple of different people I knew who had experienced such a tragedy and it was heartbreaking. Though I will say when it comes to this form of death I can understand why a person would have a vein of anger and revenge mixed in with their unhappiness. Hopefully I will never have to experience such a horrible thing in my life. I would rather be exposed to this type of event as an observer while watching a movie. Or at least I thought so until I saw this fantasy adventure.    CURSED by a witch with immortal life Kaulder, played by Vin Diesel (Fast & Furious franchise, The Pacifier), would spend his life throughout the centuries protecting the world from such wretched witches. This action film was all about the CGI effects. There were a couple of scenes that were actually good. I thought the idea behind the story was decent; however the script was as dull as an old rusty nail. With Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) as Dolan 37th, Michael Caine (Harry Brown, Inception) as Dolan 36th and Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones-TV, Downton Abbey-TV) as Chloe; the actors had nothing to work with to try and make this film at least somewhat exciting. As for Vin, with his limited acting range, this role did not suit him at all. With his monotone speech, I found him boring. Maybe part of the issue was the direction the actors were getting because I did not care for the way scenes jumped back and forth in time; it made for a frenzied viewing experience. I will say I did not mind Rose Leslie’s character and wished there were more scenes with Michael; though even his character seemed like one I have seen him play before. This is one film I would not be sad if the movie studio lost.

 

1 2/3 stars

 

Flash Movie Review: Interstellar

A mound of recently fallen autumn leaves became an ancient fragile pyramid that was ready to be explored by us. We had to be careful as we dug our way inside so the colored walls would not crumble and fall. The discarded stove in the alley turned into a rocket ship with 4 blazing thrusters and a retractable dock door that revealed a double landing deck made of steel. For a child the world was this huge amusement park, filled with infinite places to explore. I feel exploring is part of our human nature. Not necessarily in the same way, all of us do it in some kind of form. There are people who explore various stores to find the cheapest price on an item before buying it. When I take a trip to an unfamiliar place, I go into full explorer mode. After researching and mapping out my trip; once I arrive I usually go non-stop to cover as much territory as I can before I return home. Think about it; isn’t taking an art or dance class a way for us to explore our creative side? Throughout the ages there have been individuals who spent their entire life looking for something new and different; as I said, it is just in our nature.    EXPLORING for a new planet to call home was imperative if mankind wanted to survive as a species since the Earth was dying. For Professor Brand’s, played by Michael Caine (Harry Brown, The Dark Knight franchise), plan to succeed he would have to depend on the skills of retired astronaut Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club, Mud), to pilot the spaceship. One of the passengers was the professor’s daughter; a scientist who Cooper referred to simply as Brand, played by Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables, The Devil Wears Prada). No one knew if the crew would be back in time before the planet expired. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight franchise, Inception), this science fiction adventure was a major piece of work. Without the use of green screens for the special effects, the actors were able to react in a more realistic way to the sets around them. Visually the movie was stunning with its broad spectrum of varied scenes, both on Earth and in space. Where I felt this movie stumbled was its story. Though the script per se was well done, even with the past and present story lines going simultaneously, the story had some muddled spots in it. With a running time of 2 hours and 49 minutes; I felt the film could have used a little more editing. The hardest part watching this movie was at the end; after sitting all the way through, I found myself confused to the point I felt I was left out in space.

 

3 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Secondhand Lions

They say a picture paints 1,000 words and for the most part it can. However, there are some pictures/photographs that I feel would be a perfect accompaniment to an oral history. Family photos are one example that comes to mind. Whether they are from my family or friends, I have always been curious to hear the stories associated with the pictures. Some of those old sepia toned photos pasted onto hard cardboard, where the people are staring straight ahead with stern faces, can provide some interesting tales. Among my photographs I have sat and wondered what future generations would think about them. There is the photo of a dog’s head lying on a pillow with a blanket pulled up to his chin. They have no idea that in the middle of the night when I would get up to use the bathroom, our dog would jump up onto the bed into my spot and pull the covers up over himself. I would come back to bed and see him looking at me as if he were asking me, “What do you want?” That dog was such a character.    BECAUSE I feel family stories are important and need to be shared; I thoroughly enjoyed what was being said in this film festival nominated movie. Taking place in Texas, Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense, Pay it Forward) played Walter, a young boy whose mother Mae, played by Kyra Sedgwick (Gamer, The Closer-TV), planned to drop him off with his eccentric uncles so she could go to school out of state. Uncle Garth and Uncle Hub, played by Michael Caine (Children of Men, Sleuth) and Robert Duvall (The Godfather franchise, Crazy Heart) were 2 of the most unusual men, who told strange stories, Walter had ever seen in his life. This comedic drama had such a pleasant way of letting the stories unfold from scene to scene. There was a sense of homeyness and familiarity that many viewers could identify to their own families. Though some of the roles verged on being cartoon like, I thought the cast’s acting was incredibly good. Michael and Robert were perfect, giving even doses of abruptness and quiet sweetness out of their characters. With the story set in the 1960s, this family film had a different pace and simpleness where some individuals might have a hard time relating to it. I, on the other hand, found such a feeling of comfort and deepening between the characters in this picture that it made me yearn for those family get togethers where the older relatives would share their family histories with the younger generations.

 

2 2/3 stars — DVD

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

Flash Movie Review: Is Anybody There?

As a small child I thought my grandmother was a magician. My cousins and I would squeal with laughter when she would pop her teeth out of her mouth. We did not realize she had false teeth. With my grandfather, I remember how much he enjoyed playing checkers; always ready whenever I would ask him to play with me. These special times are what I prefer remembering than my grandmother’s final years in a nursing home. This touching movie’s story was centered at a home for the elderly, in a small English town. Bill Milner (Son of Rambow, X-Men: First Class) played Edward, the owners’ son who had to give up his bedroom to accommodate a new elderly patient to the home. Surrounded by only old residents, Edward was fascinated with death, especially the minutes immediately following. The demands of the home weighed on his mum and dad, played by Anne-Marie Duff (Nowhere Boy, The Last Station) and David Morrissey (The Other Boleyn Girl, The Reaping), allowing for little family time. Edward’s life would change when retired magician Clarence, played by Michael Caine (Sleuth, The Prestige) arrived at the home. The two would form an unusual bond where one looked only to the future, while the other to the past. Michael Caine showed his acting range with this colorful character. Set in the 1980’s, I enjoyed the look of the movie and appreciated the acting skills from the main characters. The residents of the home and their tales were secondary, used more as a vehicle to move the story forward. There were some scenes that did not ring true for me; they felt out of place. However, with Michael’s and Bill’s wonderful performances the movie was worth watching. If for nothing else than to be reminded that lessons taught can be multigenerational. Brief scene with blood.

 

2 1/2 stars — DVD

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