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Flash Movie Review: Alien: Covenant

IF a person wants to learn how to drive a car there is a set of rules and regulations that must be followed to get a license. These rules are needed otherwise there would be chaos on every street. I have noticed with the introduction of red light cameras (devices that take detailed photographs of cars that run stoplights and mail the driver a traffic ticket) there has been an increase in accidents. In the past if a driver drove up to an intersection and the light started to change from green to red, more times than not, they would continue on their way. Once the cameras became active I started seeing cars slamming on their brakes so they would not enter the intersection and get a ticket. However because of these quick sudden stops there was not enough lag time for the car behind to stop in time; so periodically I would see automobiles getting rear ended. Recently some of the intersections have had countdown timers installed next to the WALK/DO NOT WALK signs to help the drivers prepare for a complete stop.     NOW before you think I am one to follow every rule by the letter, I have to tell you that is not always the case. I would not say I break rules, I prefer to say I modify them. At the grocery store I may go through the express checkout line with 1 or 2 more items than the posted limit. However I would never abuse it with a full shopping cart like I have seen other people do, pretending they did not know it was an express lane. Rules are needed in any industry from construction to agriculture. There are even rules when it comes to writing a story. I will say to interject the element of surprise one must have the breaking of a rule. In this science fiction horror thriller there were a few surprises in store for the crew and the viewer.     ON a mission to populate a distant planet the crew of the colony ship Covenant were awaken early. A transmission was detected that surprised the crew members. This latest installment of the Alien franchise starred Michael Fassbender (Assassin’s Creed, The Light Between Oceans) as David/Walter, Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as Daniels, Billy Crudup (Jackie, 20th Century Women) as Oram, Danny McBride (Your Highness, The Pineapple Express) as Tennessee and Demian Bichir (Lowriders, The Heat) as Lope. Visually this film caught my eye right away; I thought the sets were interesting. As for the actors Michael and Katherine were the standouts, especially Michael in his dual roles. My issue with this movie was the script. I do not think I am picky but there seemed to be a lack of believability. Not that I am a space explorer but common protocols regarding space travel were ignored in this story. In addition scenes were too predictable. It is safe to say we all know what happens when someone excuses themselves to go to the bathroom in a horror picture. Due to the script there was a lack of new things taking place for me. I found it odd; where the writers could have taken liberties was in the structure of the story line. Instead they chose to break the rules of reason in telling a story. Blood and violence was shown in multiple scenes.

 

2 ½ stars

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: Assassin’s Creed

WHEN I was little all I wanted was to have a common, average full name; something like John Smith or Robert Jones. I was the only one in my elementary school to have my first name, though there were a couple of boys who had names similar to mine. Teachers never asked a Jeffrey or Deborah to repeat their names but with certain teachers I had to repeat mine a 2nd time so they were sure they heard correctly. Thinking back now I am not sure why it was important for me to want a different name unless it was to be less noticed. It was not like my name was hard to spell or even pronounce.   AS we graduated out of elementary school we were joined with students from other schools. There was one boy who had the same last name as a local food company and he was picked on because of it. I remember sitting and imagining if he was getting teased for a food product what would happen to a student who had the same last name of an infamous person from history; such as Churchill, Hemingway or Mussolini? Interestingly I knew a couple of people who were connected to famous individuals but no one knew because they did not have the same last name. There was one friend who was able to trace his family history back 6 centuries. He showed me a couple of artifacts that had been handed down generation to generation; it really blew my mind since my knowledge of my family’s history only goes back approximately a couple of hundred years. Tracing a family’s history can be eye opening, both for the relatives or bystanders. The reason I say this is because there is a famous family business headquartered in my city. The descendants have lived around here for years and a friend of mine is the accountant for a couple of them. Just from a couple of stories told to me, this family has some messed up genes in their gene pool. But they do not as far as I know have an ancestor like the one in this fantasy adventure.   CAL Lynch, played by Michael Fassbender (The Light Between Oceans, Steve Jobs), was surprised to discover he had an ancestor named Aguilar who was an assassin. Cal was more surprised when he met him. This action film based on a video game had a heavy hitting cast joining Michael. There was Marion Cotillard (Allied, Rust and Bone) as Sofia, Jeremy Irons (The Man in the Iron Mask, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) as Rikkin and Brendan Gleeson (Suffragette, Troy) as Joseph Lynch. With such a good cast it was a shame the nonsensical script was so poor. It was a patchwork of fights, romance, history; it jumped from one to the other. I enjoyed the exterior shots and I did not mind the story, but this film was barely coherent. The actors tried their best I believe; however, I was bored through parts of the picture. Maybe the video game is fun to play but this was not a film one needs to pay full price to see. In my opinion this was a movie studio and family dysfunction.

 

1 2/3 stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Light Between Oceans

There are many people who use the word “love,” though looking at world affairs maybe not enough. I have experienced individuals who actually say the word too often, to the point where I feel it loses some of its importance. Now I am not referring necessarily to someone telling another person they love them; though I have to tell you, hearing someone say it constantly throughout the day makes me feel as if there is less specialness behind the meaning of the spoken word. I remember the first time I realized I was truly in love with someone was when they became ill. Being a person who avoids touching things like doorknobs, other people’s cell phones and their hands; when I sat looking at my loved one wishing I would have gotten sick instead of them, I knew I had fallen deeply in love. Wanting to take away their discomfort besides nursing them without thinking about all the germs was a transformative experience for me. So I use this as my litmus test: if I am willing to put the needs of someone ahead of my germ phobia then I know our relationship is meant to be. Sadly I have seen some people who could not take that extra step in their relationship. I knew someone who was in a relationship for a couple of years; they were quite in love. However when one came down with a life threatening illness, the other could not handle it. Though in their defense they did try, but after a time they ended the relationship. It was just a sad situation all around. One could certainly say love makes people do some crazy or should I say irrational things; the couple in this dramatic romance will show you another example.   WHEN lighthouse keeper Tom Sherbourne, played by Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs, X-Men franchise) spotted what looked like an abandoned rowboat, he had no idea his life was about to change because of what he found inside the boat. This film festival nominated movie based on the bestselling book was not only beautiful to watch, it also had a wonderful soundtrack. Besides Michael there was Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, Jason Bourne) as Isabel Graysmark and Rachel Weisz (The Lobster, Oz the Great and Powerful) as Hannah Roennfeldt; all of them were amazing with their characters. I have not read the book but I found the story interesting. Starting out slowly the script took some time before pulling me in. I will say the chemistry between Michael and Alicia was quite strong; they kept me interested in their story. However the script had some holes in it that were a distraction for me. There were some events that did not ring true to me to the point I felt the writer was focusing more on making the audience react instead of going deeper with the characters. It just came across as heavy handed and manipulative to me. Love can make a person do some uncharacteristic things but I was not totally in love with this movie.

 

2 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

I think having the ability to see one’s self through someone else’s eyes would be quite beneficial. It would be like having an instant 2nd opinion, besides the advantages of having an easy access mirror that reflects back perceptions. I have seen various television shows where an individual is shown a videotape of themselves after some event. Most of these are done as a comedy bit on a talk show, but there have been other occasions where I have seen it done. I cringe when I think about things I have done where if I only had given thought to how my actions would be perceived, I would not have acted in such a way. Another positive aspect about someone else’s viewpoint is the confidence one could gain from such knowledge. Can you imagine growing up and being told by someone important to you that you will never be good at art or sports? Any painting you draw or ball you throw never receives a compliment or a word of encouragement. Not until you are in a different environment and someone sees something in you, do you finally hear a positive comment. I know I have mentioned this previously but based on my background no one would have believed that I would become a fitness/yoga instructor; I flunked PE twice in high school. Yet there was one individual at a fitness class I attended in my neighborhood who saw and encouraged me to pursue my passion. It just goes to show you that sometimes our perceptions of ourselves may not always be the most accurate.   THE world En Sabah Nur, played by Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Stars Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens) remembered was nothing like the new world he was seeing now. Changes needed to be made. This action adventure brought back most of the actors from the previous film, so I will focus on a couple of the standouts for me. Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games franchise, Joy) as Raven/Mystique was a focal point to this film and I always enjoy her performances; however, I only wished the script would have offered her more. Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones-TV, Barely Lethal) as Jean Grey was perfect casting in my opinion. The other actor I enjoyed was Evan Peters (American Horror Story-TV, Elvis & Nixon) as Quicksilver. I read on Moviejoltz’ Facebook timeline a discussion regarding this story deviating from the comic book. Since I am not familiar with the comic books I can only base my review on what I saw on the big screen. The special effects were good though it seemed the fight scenes overwhelmed the telling of the story. With such a capable cast I wished the script had offered more depth and feelings for the characters. It did seem like some roles were put into this story for possible consideration of a spinoff. I enjoyed watching this fantasy film but after it was done I felt like something was missing. Granted this was my perception of the movie; true comic book fans may have a stronger reaction. There was one extra scene at the end of the credits.

 

2 ¾ stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Steve Jobs

Ugh not again; there they go repeating the same story for everyone. I do not know if this has happened to you but I know a couple of people who can take an entertaining story and pummel it down to the point where most people would have lost interest midway through the tale. One of these individuals will tell me a story, move on to something else for a moment and then come back to the original story to add some unnecessary element. I say “unnecessary” because once you give out the punchline the story is done. If you go back to add something else it never adds extra oomph if someone already knows the ending to the joke or story. At a party this person will go from group to group telling each one a particular story, dragging it out longer and longer as they make their way among the assembled people. It is easy to tell when a captive guest loses interest; their eyes keep darting from side to side after each blink as they are looking to lock in on someone to come save them from the storyteller’s discombobulated oratory. I may not be a great verbal communicator but I do know that a good story or joke needs to be quick and to the point. It is like a speech; there is only a finite amount of time one can hold onto an audience’s attention span before they drift off to someplace else. So here is today’s movie and it is the third film about Steve Jobs I have seen in a short amount of time. How many times do we need to hear about Steve and Apple Computer? Luckily they say the 3rd time is the charm because it was for this dramatic movie.    COME backstage during the launch of 3 major products during Steve’s tenure at Apple Computer. Directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) and written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, The West Wing-TV), this film was intelligent, smart and most importantly acted out brilliantly. The casting could not have been better with the likes of Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method, Shame) as Steve Jobs, Kate Winslet (Titanic, Divergent franchise) as Joanna Hoffman and Jeff Daniels (The Martian, Looper) as John Sculley; they were amazing in their roles. Michael completely obliterated any trace memory I had left of Ashton Kutcher’s poor performance as Steve in the film Jobs; there is a good chance Michael will be nominated for best actor this Oscar season. The script was so well done I can only imagine the actors must have really enjoyed digging deep into their characters. I enjoyed the mix of dramatic intensity and humor Aaron brought into the script. The fact the story only focused on three specific time frames I believe made this a stronger picture. Truthfully, I could easily see this film again and not get bored.

 

3 1/2 stars 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Slow West

There has only been one person in my life who made me consider moving away from the city of my birth. Having friends from childhood and family around me, I never considered moving out of state before. In my past relationships I have met many people from different parts of the country and even world. I always asked what motivated them to wind up here and the answers went from the practical to the whimsical. No matter what the reason may have been, I thought anyone who could leave their job, pack up their home and move to a different part of the world was a courageous soul. I am especially fascinated by the influence love has on some people’s decisions to relocate. There was a friend of mine who met someone and within 4 weeks knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with them, so agreed to change jobs and move out of state with them. I of course was wondering how they even knew they loved the person after a few dates. Love really is a powerful force; I guess it has a way of holding and calming any fears similar to what one does to sooth a crying baby. I recall reading a comment left on my movie site where the person mentioned she moved from Europe to the United States and I immediately assumed there was solid strength inside of her. It was the same type of strength I found in this movie.    LEAVING Scotland to come to America Jay Cavendish, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In, The Road), had only one thing on his mind. He wanted to find his true love Rose Ross, played by Caren Pistorius (The Most Fun You Can Have Dying, Offspring-TV). Outlaw Silas Selleck, played by Michael Fassbender (X-Men franchise, 12 Years a Slave), agreed to take Jay across the country for a price, realizing Jay would never survive crossing the American frontier on his own. This Sundance Film Festival winning western thriller was an interesting movie. I have seen films about finding long lost love but this one was different for me because it took place in a 19th century wild west setting with a young foreigner. The entire cast which also included Ben Mendelsohn (Killing Them Softly, The Place Beyond the Pines) as Payne were rock solid with their characters. Visually this picture had some beautiful scenery and the camera work helped keep the story fresh for me. When there was action it was well done but I hesitate to call this an action film; the pace leaned more to a slower one. This picture provided a curious tale of love that could leave you thinking about your past relationships. There were a few scenes that showed blood.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Centurion

Recently I was playing with a friend’s dog who loved being chased around the house. Though he was a small sized dog he would outrun me. It was so funny to watch him when he moved out of eyesight from me; he would stop and wait until I entered the room before taking off again. It reminded me when we were kids how we loved being chased by older relatives Actually I cannot recall any child not enjoying a game of tag or having someone playfully chase them. However once we start arriving at adulthood, being chased takes on a whole different, scary dimension. For those who have never experienced being chased let me describe it for you. The brain opens the floodgates of hormones for the body to take flight. As the heart is pounding in your chest, hearing it all the way up to your ears, your vision narrows into a tight focus as the eyes are constantly seeking out safe passage for you. Despite hearing your body in overdrive, the ears suddenly take on animalistic sharpness; you are able to single out the sounds stretching to you from your pursuers. And finally, time becomes distorted where seconds feel like minutes and minutes feel like milliseconds.    DEEP inside enemy land a small group of Roman soldiers was trying to make their way back after a devastating battle. However, revenge would sustain those assigned to hunt them down, no matter how long it would take. This film festival nominated movie’s story was set in Britain during the 2nd century, starring Michael Fassbender (X-Men franchise, Shame) playing Centurion Quintus Dias and Dominic West (Chicago, 300) as General Titus Flavius Virilus. It was these actors that attracted me to this DVD since I was not familiar with the writer/director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, Doomsday). I have to tell you right at the start this action drama had a large amount of blood being spilled throught it; I mean a lot. The acting was good and I especially liked the character of Etain, played by Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, The November Man). Except for all of the blood, I enjoyed the way this picture was filmed; some of the outdoor scenes had a great look to them. Regarding the battle scenes, they were a bit intense at times even though they verged on becoming cartoonish. What basically caused me to lose interest was the story; it essentially became one long chase scene that seemed to be repeating itself. I also did not think the scripted dialog did it any favors. There would be no reason to go out of your way to see this film; but if you had time to kill with nothing to do, you may be okay pursuing this one. Many scenes had blood and violence in them.

 

2 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

The words had just passed my lips when I realized these were not the correct ones to utter at the moment. I inhaled with the same force I use with a straw in a chocolate peanut butter milkshake, but it was to no avail; the words were out in the open for everyone to hear. If only I had the opportunity to do it all over; but then again, there are so many times I wish for that chance. Almost every checkout line I choose winds up with a customer ahead of me who has some type of issue that will require a price check or swapping out a product. Recently I was running late for work. I had just missed the green light at an intersection that has an unusually long wait period between signals. It was a split second decision and I veered off into a restaurant’s parking lot to avoid the wait. As I was about to exit on the opposite side a police car was sitting there waiting for me to leave the lot. If only I could have turned time back, I would have saved myself from a moving violation ticket. I would have a better understanding of time travel if it personally affected me. In movies I get lost by the explanations or logistics of it. However, in this action adventure film I had no problem. Due to a particular event in history, both humans and mutants (individuals with special abilities) were being targeted for elimination. A plan was developed to send Logan/Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman (Prisoners, Australia), back in time in an attempt to alter the outcome of the specific incident, change the course of history and hopefully save mutants in the future. What drove this fantasy film to excellence was the well thought out script and amazing special effects. I especially liked the way humor was injected into scenes without taking away from the building tension. The other main force that made this movie special was the cast. I thought Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook, The Hunger Games franchise) as Raven/Mystique, Michael Fassbender (The Counselor, Shame) as Erik Lehnsherr and James McAvoy (Trance, The Last Station) as Charles Xavier were outstanding. One of my few and minor complaints was not seeing enough of Patrick Stewart (Safe House, Star Trek franchise) as Professor X and Ian McKellen (The Hobbit franchise, Emile) as Magneto. Though there were a couple of things where I did not understand the logic, it really did not matter; this fantasy film delivered a high dose of exciting entertainment and suspense. In fact, I would not need the ability to turn back time because I would willingly go see this movie again. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.

 

3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Counselor

The word “enough” has a different meaning today than it did when I was growing up. Back then the word meant: as much or as many as required; like when I was asked if I had enough to eat. It related more to a personal level. I have always said if I won the lottery there would be little change in my personal possessions. There would be no multiple car purchases or living in a mansion. One of the benefits I could see would be for me to no longer worry how I was paying for something. That would be a nice aspect I wish to experience someday. These days I find the word “enough” is being used more as a comparison to someone else. For example, they have more than I do, I do not have enough. Greed seems to have taken on a more extreme persona in society today. When the news reports on prominent people getting caught for illegal activity, in their desire to acquire even more wealth, I have to wonder what is wrong that they cannot be satisfied with what they have already. An extreme example of this is the premise for this dramatic crime film. Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave, A Dangerous Method) played a wealthy counselor who decided to acquire more wealth via drug trafficking. When the deal did not go as planned, the counselor learned there were consequences to the decisions he made. Based on the book by Cormac McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men), the script was Cormac’s attempt at being a screenwriter. This was a poor decision because the script was horrendous. I thought the dialog was bizarre while multiple scenes made no sense. Even with a cast that included Javier Barden (Skyfall, No Country for Old Men) as Reiner, Penelope Cruz (To Rome With Love, Volver) as Laura and Cameron Diaz (Bad Teacher, My Sister’s Keeper) as Malkina; there was no way they could save this film from its bloody boredom. I found it interesting that a film about greed may have been green lighted by individuals who wanted to score again, on par with the fortunes reaped from their previous film No Country for Old Men. It was a greedy ploy that did not pay off. There were scenes with blood and violence.

 

1 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: 12 Years a Slave

I first learned about prejudice in elementary school, but it was not from school books. My first exposure had to do with religious differences. After answering a classmate’s question on what was my religion, he told me I was dirty. At the time I was confused by his comment, remembering I looked down at my hands to see if they were unclean. Shortly after I discovered other classmates were treated to the same encounter. If you were not the same religion as this boy, he believed something was wrong with you. The next form of prejudice I witnessed occurred later when a new student was enrolled into my class who was African American. There was no overt actions taken against her; however, she was shunned by several students. I did not understand why classmates would react in such a way, let alone try to figure out the reasoning  behind it. My elementary school years were only a prelude to the horrors I would encounter when I entered into high school. One of the reasons I started this review by writing about the prejudices and discriminations I saw at such a young age was to prepare you for what were the most realistic depictions of them that I have ever seen in a movie. Based on Solomon Northup’s memoir, this movie should be required viewing in every school. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Children of Men, American Gangster) was unbelievable playing Solomon; a free black man with a wife and two children, living in upper state New York who was kidnapped, shipped to Louisiana and sold into slavery. Directed by Steve McQueen (Shame, Hunger), I have never experienced the range of intensity and hatred portrayed in a film about slavery like it was done in this film festival winner. Relative newcomer Lupita Nyong’o was outstanding in her role as Patsey, the slave of cotton plantation owner Edwin Epps, played by Michael Fassbender (A Dangerous Method, Prometheus). The story was amazing to watch on film; I can only imagine what Solomon Northup’s book must be like to read. Even with some actors such as Paul Dano (Prisoners, Ruby Sparks) as Tibeats and Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement,War Horse) as Ford having brief screen time, they still made every minute count with their characters. This is a movie that needs to be seen by everyone. Now I certainly would not be considered an optimist, but forgive me if my hope is the human race would be better by witnessing the ugliness of prejudice and slavery shown in this magnificent film. There were several scenes that showed blood and violence.

 

4 stars

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