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Flash Movie Review: American Assassin

I DID NOT think my question was that unusual or demanded too much from the sales clerk. If you could have seen their face you would have thought I had just asked something outrageous or personal. All I wanted to know was if the shirt’s material tended to shrink. Besides the “dirty” look and the condescending way they answered me, they did not even bother to look at me in the face. I wanted to tell them if they were that miserable at their job, maybe they should consider changing careers. Now in the past I would have taken that response personally and snapped back something nasty to say to them. To tell you the truth I took most things personally back then.      DUE TO THE events I experienced in my earlier days I was wary of most people. My mind would quickly go into attack mode whenever I had an exchange of some kind with a stranger. They could have been a volunteer soliciting signatures or a lost tourist, it did not matter; I would be distrustful of the individual until I saw or could ascertain they were not going to hurt me in some way. I am not exactly sure when I started softening my attitude and not taking things personally, but I think it was during a time I was being fixed up on several blind dates. It did not take me long into the conversation to realize whether the person was interested in me or not. Granted some people showed their disinterest easier than others; but even the ones that kept up a good facade, did not cause me to react negatively. I realized that everyone has likes and dislikes, trigger points that set them off and none of it should be looked at as a good or bad thing. Their qualifications or agenda was not a personal attack on me; I just did not fit into what they were looking for. In a way one could say it was just business.      AFTER SURVIVING A terrorist attack while on vacation Mitch Rapp, played by Dylan O’Brien (The Maze Runner franchise, Teen Wolf-TV), could not think of anything else after that date but to hunt down the terrorists. It was something the CIA was doing also. This action thriller also starred Michael Keaton (The Founder, Spider-Man: Homecoming) as Stan Hurley, Sanaa Lathan (Out of Time, The Best Man Holiday) as Irene Kennedy, Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Friday Night Lights-TV) as Ghost and Shiva Negar (The Art of More-TV, My Babysitter’s a Vampire-TV) as Annika. The highlight of this film was Michael Keaton; he was the most believable out of the cast. I do not know if Dylan was miscast but he did not have much range with his acting and I am afraid to say did not have the physical presence to pull off his character. With decent fight and action scenes the script could not carry the story; there were several situations that did not ring true for me. In addition the story was not only predictable but the premise for it was cheesy and weak in my opinion. A couple of therapy sessions prior to developing this film would have been money well spent.

 

2 stars

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

THE bus pulled up just as I said goodbye to my friends. They were hanging out together after school, but I had to go to work. The bus ride took around 25 minutes which gave me some time to study for an exam I was having the next day. Is this what I wanted to do after school? No, I would have preferred hanging out with my friends; studying for the exam could take place after dinner. My part-time job was at a camera store. Luckily I worked in the warehouse so I would not have to be out in front selling or ringing up sales. It was already bad enough that I was one of the few who had a job; but to have to wait on my friends or their parents would make things worse. Truthfully the job was not bad at all; since I was already into photography, I enjoyed being around the different film and camera products. I also would hear about new items before the general public, which I thought was cool.       MANAGING my time between school and work was a challenge. By the time my friends and I were seniors a majority of us had after school jobs. One of the perks for me was being able to drive the owner’s car to make special pickup orders or deliveries when the company van was out on the road. I was not comfortable driving the large van as I would have to maneuver several side streets on the route. As for the owner’s car, it was a luxury automobile with all the extra appointments; in other words, all the bells and whistles one could buy for it. Even though driving the car was a highlight, I still had the challenge of keeping my grades up while working. Going to school, work and be with my friends was always a give and take situation. There were times I would miss out doing fun stuff; but on the other hand, I always had money in my wallet. My challenges paled by comparison to the ones the main character in this action, adventure film had to endure.     AFTER helping out the Avengers the only thing Peter Parker/Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland (The Impossible, The Lost City of Z), wanted to do was to become a full time crime fighter. However he first had to finish high school. This reboot of the science fiction franchise had a well rounded cast that gave the story a good kick of fun excitement. Starring Robert Downey Jr (Sherlock Holmes franchise, The Judge) as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Michael Keaton (The Founder, Spotlight) as Adrian Toomes/Vulture and Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler, The Lincoln Lawyer) as May Parker; each of them did a great job in their roles. I did wish Michael Keaton had more screen time. With his acting skills the writers could have made his character darker and more intense; I think this would have added more to the story. The thing I enjoyed about this film was having Peter struggle with his desire to be a superhero while trying to be a typical teenager. There were elements of wit and charm to many scenes due to Tony Stark’s presence and Peter’s puppy like eagerness. I felt the middle of the film slowed down with the story line about going out on a date; the intensity and action were weak. Though I found Tom’s whiny voice annoying at times, I felt he was the right choice to lead this reboot. There were extra scenes in the middle and at the end of the credits.

 

3 ¼ stars         

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Founder

BETWEEN the street corner and an alley a structure was built that changed my life. I remember walking by the construction site on the way to the library. Construction workers wearing hard hats were moving around the site constantly; in a way it looked like an abstract ballet piece the way each of them seamlessly worked together. The outside of the building was made with white tiles; I thought for sure it would have turned to gray within a week from all the exhaust coming out of the cars driving down the busy thoroughfare. Right in the middle of the growing walls a slab of curved metal was jutting out like an awful hangnail. I could not imagine what these workers were thinking of to stab their beautiful white tiled sides with this hollow, arching monstrosity.   OVER the course of a season the building took form and all that remained were a few last details. One day appearing in front was a fenced off area that had round metal tables with big opened umbrellas sticking up from the center. Around the tables were bolted down curved benches. A sign was hung from the building announcing a grand opening. My friends and I were there on opening day and it was crazy with people lined up everywhere. I remember ordering a hamburger, french fries and a soft drink. We each were handed our meal in a paper bag and walked outside to the side of the building where the white tiles were built out to form a ledge to sit on. Prior to that moment I had never had a pickle or mustard on a hamburger, only ketchup; the mix of flavors exploded in my mouth. But what sent me into a caloric craze of complete cherished comfort were the french fries and chocolate milkshake. My affair with those slender strands of potato heaven has lasted all these years. I do not know if they would have had the same effect if I had known the story about the man who brought the restaurant with the golden arches to the world.   SALESMAN Ray Kroc, played by Michael Keaton (Spotlight, White Noise), could not understand the sales order he received from a restaurant in California. Deciding to take a drive out to see the place, Ray was stunned when he came up to this little “food stand” run by brothers Mac and Dick McDonald, played by John Carroll Lynch (Shutter Island, American Horror Story-TV) and Nick Offerman (21 Jump Street franchise, Parks and Recreation-TV). The brothers may not have realized what they had going but Ray sure did. This film festival winning biographical drama succeeded because of Michael’s performance; he played it beautifully to the point where I was reacting negatively to some of Ray’s actions. Having my memories of the fast food restaurants heightened my interest in this historical story. I am not sure how much of the script was truthful, but I enjoyed most of the progression in the story. There were scenes that only implied certain actions that I would have enjoyed better if there was more back story; however, this did not distract me from the story. With most of the earth’s population having knowledge about this company, I cannot imagine someone getting bored with this movie, though you may get a bit hungry.

 

3 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: Minions

It is not as fun, fun being a relative term, when there is not an audience or one’s followers around to witness the act. More times than not the person picking on another person has a posse of buddies in tow to be their audience and witnesses when they go on the attack. I have seen it time and time again besides being on the receiving end; watching the bully walk away with their admiring subordinates following up the rear, sometimes punctuating the event with their own punch or kick. Now I know there are some followers who may not agree with their leader’s actions, but they choose to go along as a preventative measure to avoid being in a position where they could be the one that is on the receiving end. This logic can be applied on a global scale. How many times has the news shown a horrific act of violence? I have wondered what would happen if there was a moratorium on reporting such activities; would it have a dampening effect on those individuals or groups who seek out an audience for their actions. Speaking of audiences this recently happened here; a local news station reported on an attempted robbery that took place on public transportation. There was video from a security camera that was shown and the thing that struck me was how there were other passengers around who did nothing as the victim fought back against their attacker. Would they be considered human versions of the Minions?    DESPONDENT over their lack of having an evil leader to follow; Kevin, Bob and Stuart head out in search of someone bad enough for them and the rest of their fellow Minions to follow. This animated comedy was geared towards the younger viewer; however, the soundtrack was done with the adult in mind. I thought the song choices were a great accompaniment to the terrific animation. Additionally the choice of actors such as Sandra Bullock (Gravity, The Blind Side) as Scarlett Overkill and Jon Hamm (The Town, Mad Men-TV) as her husband Herb were well equipped to handle their characters. After seeing for months the hilarious trailers, this film was a bit disappointing. The script did not provide enough punch to make this animated movie succeed. For example I thought Scarlett was not evil enough; she lacked the drama that someone in that position could have been yielding. I found myself getting bored halfway through the story since it seemed as if it was one stunt or comedy bit being repeated over and over. Maybe it was due too all the exposure the Minions have been getting the past several months, but this full length feature did not provide any excitement until closer to the end. There was an extra fun musical scene at the end of the credits.

 

2 1/2 stars 

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Eventually over time all bright objects lose some of their glow. As bright as a high noon sun can be, time’s strength with its constant pull draws out the shadows that were tucked away, freeing them to dance across the landscape of one’s life. A smooth taut face will turn and appear like the flapping jowls of a bounding Shar-Pei dog or a centuries old ravaged canyon. Besides youth not staying long in a person’s life, one’s accomplishments can diminish as future generations with their energy and determination restructure the environment. Within some aspects of my life I am familiar with the fading light of a past moment or if you will a past glory. When I was much younger and taught up to 20 aerobic classes a week, I felt I was on top of the world. With each movement choreographed for all the main muscle groups of the body, beside to each beat of selected songs; I felt I was walking onto a Broadway stage for every class. Having upwards of 50 members in a class, working out truly felt like a high energy theatrical production. At this stage of my life I know I could never keep up with my younger self (though I keep trying) and I am okay with it. I do my best not to judge anyone; but in regards to various celebrities, when I see them trying to perform the same way they did in a movie they starred in 15-20 years ago I have to wonder what motivates them.    DECLINING fame was a hard fact to swallow for action movie star Riggan Thomson, played by Michael Keaton (Batman franchise, White Noise). Trying to recapture the spotlight once again; Riggan was launching a staged production that he wrote, directed and planned on starring in. He would have to deal with past events as he sorted through his true feelings. A film festival winner, this surreal comedic drama was outstanding on every level. The cast which also included Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, Magic in the Moonlight) as Sam, Edward Norton (The Illusionist, Fight Club) as Mike and Zach Galifianakis (Due Date, The Hangover franchise) as Jake were all amazing to watch as they handled all the twists and turns the script threw at them. From writer and director Alejandro Gonzalez (Babel, 21 Grams), the story dealt with real feelings and fears even when scenes took on a fantasy nature. Having Michael Keaton star in this movie was brilliant casting since in some circles people have said his best work was during the Batman films. I thought he was incredible in this role. In fact, I expect there will be multiple acting nominations for this film during next year’s Oscar race. Original, thought-provoking, stimulating; this movie was a glorious example for the beauty of filmmaking while showing the downfalls of yearning for one’s past glories.

 

4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Need for Speed

If you would have asked me several years ago if I was a vengeful person I would have said yes. It was not something that made me proud, especially since I was not mature about it, letting it flame out of me as a way to cover up my hurt feelings. An example would be if someone broke my trust; I would want to hurt them as much as I felt they hurt me. I cannot say there was one thing that triggered a change in me; maybe the realization I no longer wanted to give my energy away to someone who did not deserve it. Instead of going into attack mode I can now express my feelings and if need be walk away while not giving that individual another thought. This would not be the case if I felt I needed to right a wrong, however. Being a big believer in actions speaking louder than words, I could not fault the main character in this action drama from righting a wrong done to him. Aaron Paul (The Last House on the Left, Breaking Bad-TV) played Tobey Marshall. After being sent to prison for a crime he did not commit, Tobey would ride across the country to enter a racing contest just so he could compete against the man who had set him up. Based on the popular video game, the main stars of this crime film were the automobiles. Aaron who twice won an Emmy for his performance in Breaking Bad was horrible as the leading character. Topping his poor performance was an actor I have had high regard for, Dominic Cooper (The Devil’s Due, The Duchess) who played racing car driver Dino Brewster. Not all the fault should be placed on them because the script and direction were the real problems that made this a dull film. Though the driving and racing scenes were good and well orchestrated, I thought the driving was better in the Fast & Furious movie franchise. Imogen Poots (That Awkward Moment, Fright Night) as Julia Maddon and Michael Keaton (RoboCop, First Daughter) as Monarch had more life in their characters, though Michael seemed to be channeling his Beetlejuice character a bit. As an overall movie watching experience, I always cheer for the underdog character and like to see justice being served; but when the cars are acting better than the cast, I felt this film was a quart low in being entertaining. I also want to add there is no reason to see this film in 3D. An extra scene can be seen after the short first set of credits at the end of the film.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: RoboCop

Does one’s love diminish by the amount of hair left on someone’s hairbrush? Does the amount of poundage on your significant other directly relate to the intensity of your love for them? The higher the number the less love you have to give? I have said before I believe our bodies are only being rented; what is inside of them is what counts, at least for me. It always amuses me when I hear someone say they do not like facial hair or redheads. Taking it one step further, I find it perplexing when someone makes a judgement based on a person’s ethnicity, race or even where they were born. What does that have to do with love? You will have to excuse me but I find individuals who lose their love and leave their mate due to illness utterly despicable. The essence of an individual remains the same as the body evolves through the years; those are my feelings. In this updated version of the 1987 science fiction film, you can see how love is stronger than any one body. After a suspicious explosion Detroit police officer Alex Murphy, played by Joel Kinnaman (Safe House, The Killing), had only one chance available if he was to survive. That decision fell to his wife Clara, played by Abbie Cornish (Limitless, Bright Star), who gave her consent to the corporation that would provide her husband with a robotic body, giving birth to a new crime fighter for the city: RoboCop. The only comparison I will make to the original movie is an obvious one; the special effects were better in this action crime film. I thought Gary Oldman (Lawless, Harry Potter franchise) as Dr. Dennett Norton and Michael Keaton (Jackie Brown, White Noise) as Raymond Sellars were the best of the cast. One of the issues I had was Joel Kinnaman; he did not have a powerful screen presence, coming across stiffly and I do not think it was due to his suit. The story had a satirical streak with the addition of Samuel L. Jackson’s (Django Unchained, Oldboy) character, talk show host Pat Novak. Along with a couple of twists in the story it pretty much was a standard good against evil plot. When this movie ended I did think about the advancements being made today in the medical field and wonder what will the effect be on humanity in the future. Will love wane based on the amount of mechanical parts a person has inside of them?

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Last Time

Anger can be just as constructive as it can be destructive. Some years ago I was riding in a car with a group of friends. We got side swiped by a car going in the opposite direction. The driver of our car got so angry he swerved into oncoming traffic, hoping to spin the car around and chase after the car that hit us. Instead we got rear ended and wound up on the curb. That is an example of anger being destructive. If it wasn’t for my anger, I do not think I would have pushed myself to become certified as a group exercise instructor. Knowing the feeling of being picked last in gym class, I was determined to create an environment that was accepting of all types of people and maybe more importantly, accepting of myself. Anger was a big motivator for top salesman Ted Riker, played by Michael Keaton (White Noise, Jackie Brown). He had no time for pleasantries or politeness; everyone in the company feared him. When he had to mentor newbie Jamie Bashant, played by Brendan Fraser (Inkheart, Bedazzled), it was similar to leading the sacrificial lamb to slaughter. But when hard nosed Ted met Jamie’s fiancee Belisa, played by Amber Valletta (Transporter 2, Gamer), a beat of life could be heard in his heart. Would that heart beat affect company sales? The best part of this movie was watching Michael Keaton. For me, he is one of the best when it comes to displaying crazy anger; it forcibly grabs one’s attention. Brendan, on the other hand, does not have a wide range to his acting; it seems as if he handles his recent roles all the same way: wide eyed, extra large gestures, not much depth. The other issue I had was with the story. Part comedy, part drama and part thriller; I would have preferred one genre to give this movie more focus. What kept me interested in this film was watching Michael letting loose, along with the couple of twists that took place. On a deeper level, I tend to be curious when I recognize anger in a person.

 

2 1/2 stars — DVD

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