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Flash Movie Review: Leap

IF AN OBSTACLE stops you reaching for your dream, then maybe that dream was not meant to be. If you are willing to give up easily then I do not think your heart was really into it. Imagine if scientists/inventors had given up on their projects after the first defeat. Look at the microwave oven; it came about after a scientist was experimenting with a new vacuum tube and the candy bar in his pocket started to melt. The potato chip came about in the 1850s because a chef got angry at a customer always complaining about the potatoes being served. Figuring he would teach the customer a lesson the chef sliced the potatoes thinner, fried them then covered them in salt; that is how potato chips were born. Dreams are an essential part of us being human; I know if I stopped pursuing my dreams my life would have turned out drastically different.     WHEN I FAILED the practical portion of the certification process to teach fitness I got depressed. In my head I was hearing all those old tapes that were telling me I was not good enough and I was stupid for trying to be something I was not. I even heard my elementary school teacher telling me I would amount to nothing. It is interesting because those comments made to me years ago became my fuel to push myself to work harder for my dreams. I have always had the hardest time when it came to me trying to be spontaneous, so I knew that practical portion was going to be a challenge; however, I did not give up. I forced myself to practice in front of a mirror first, then friends; afterwards, I signed up again for testing and passed. Sure I was nervous standing up in front of a group of strangers, but I knew I could do it and more importantly knew I wanted to do it. Having taught now for over 20 years I know it was worth fighting back to reach my dream based on the amount of pleasure and satisfaction my job gives me every day. This is why I was hoping the main character in this animated, adventure comedy would reach her dream.     IF FELICIE, VOICED by Elle Fanning (The Beguiled, 20th Century Woman), could find a way out of the orphanage she knew she had to make her way to Paris, because it was there she could follow her dream to become a great dancer. Her friend Victor, voiced by Dane DeHaan (A Cure for Wellness, Kill Your Darlings), would find a way out. Having a fondness for dance and a dream once of being a go-go dancer, I was looking forward to seeing this movie. The idea to this story was admirable; I liked the way the writers showed one should never give up on a dream. With Carly Ray Jepsen (Grease-TV movie) voicing Odette, Kate McKinnon (Rough Night, Office Christmas Party) voicing multiple characters and Tamir Kapelian (A Broken Code) voicing Rudolph; the actors’ voices were well suited for their characters. The animation was okay, nothing really stood out as special however. My issue with this film was the odd assortment of song choices, along with the timeline confusion regarding certain events. I did not think there was much humor in the script; plus I found a thread of laziness in the entire production process. This story could have been more original instead of appearing to be a Cinderella knockoff. There was a good message in the story but the script did not dream big enough.

 

2 stars

 

   

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Flash Movie Review: Paris Can Wait

AWKWARDNESS is the initial feeling but depending on the crowd it can hopefully be replaced with something more on the pleasant side. There have been occasions where I have accompanied a date/friend to one of their family or business functions. Personally the business ones are easier for me because there is nothing expected of me; if my date is involved with others no one usually comes over to fill “the void.” At family functions there is always a relative who can’t wait to get me alone to either pump me for information or try to turn me into their personal confidant. Of course more of this takes place when I am the date instead of the friend. There are some relatives who want to know my intentions; others have no problem grilling me like FBI interrogators asking how we met, what I do for a living, where is my family from and so on. I have to just sit there with a smile on my face, choosing how to deflect some of their questions. When the environment is like this it really becomes tedious for me. However I would never do anything to embarrass the person who brought me.     NOT wanting to sound like Mr. Gloom & Doom, there have been other times where I had a wonderful time. Some of the business functions I have attended have been close to obscene due to the amount of money that must have been spent on the affair. One dinner was held in a ballroom where the doorways were manned by immense ice sculptures in the shape of swans. Inside the room dining tables were set up with gold and silver tablecloths. On each table tall vases sat, filled with those fake ice cubes that light up in colors. Sprouting out the top were sprays of floral plants. The food was outrageous and plentiful; I would need more of your time to describe it all. And the ultimate feature was having a popular band performing for us. So you see these types of events can be a hit or miss; this is why I gave the main character in this dramatic comedy credit for agreeing to the travel arrangements.     WHEN her producer husband Michael, played by Alec Baldwin (Blue Jasmine, 30 Rock-TV), had to cut their trip short due to his work; Anne, played by Diane Lane (Unfaithful, Night in Rodanthe), agreed to travel by car to Paris with his business associate Jacques, played by Arnaud Viard (Higher Still, Carole Matthieu). It would be a road trip with unexpected turns. This romantic film written and directed by Eleanor Coppola (Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, Coda: Thirty Years Later) had two big things going for it: beautiful scenery and great looking food. Initially I felt I was connecting with the character, having been “stuck” with someone I did not know. But as the story unrolled I felt like I was a 3rd wheel in their carpool. The script and directing did nothing to enhance the characters. I appreciate Diane’s acting ability but felt she was wasted here; there was no character development. The only one I found interesting was Alec’s character, but he was used sparingly. At one point I felt I was on one of those touring tourist buses where the driver is rambling off tidbits and statistics about every single place to the point of almost numbing their passengers. If I knew this was what was going to happen on this trip I would have booked a flight instead.

2 stars     

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Frank & Lola

LOVE, when it is expressed, can be one of the purest and strongest emotions. At least that is what it can be depending on the person. When an individual falls in love they can find themselves smiling for no apparent reason or getting giddy with excitement in anticipation of being with the source of their love. Some people love going to the circus; they get to experience a range of emotions from the varied acts on display. Other people get in touch with their sense of love when they are able to hike up a mountain trail then sit out on the edge of a precipice. Another thing love can do is steer you away from your daily routines and venture into new territory, exploring the ways 2 people can blend their individual lives into a shared common one.   HOWEVER when a person sacrifices their other emotions and rational thoughts to focus strictly on love, they then have entered the land of the extremes. In this place a person scrutinizes every action, comment and reaction from the focus of their love. In turn they react in an extreme way to the point of becoming obsessive. I was in a relationship some time ago where things started out in an easy way for us. We seemed compatible and had similar tastes in things. As the weeks went by little things started cropping up that I found odd. For example a delay in us getting together due to a prior commitment I had would produce a passive aggressive response in an attempt to make me feel guilty, hoping I would change my plans. This was a red flag for me and a cause of concern. Maybe if my ego was inflated I would have enjoyed the attention and their need to be with me; instead, it caused a disconcerting feeling inside of me. My instincts turned out to be correct. I was being turned into this desired object that they needed to feel fulfilled and complete in their life. Obsession can be a lethal road for one to travel on.   FRANK, played by Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals, Midnight Special), was falling deeper in love with Lola, played by Imogen Poots (Green Room, Need for Speed), to the point where even warning signs could not influence him. This film festival nominated drama also starred Justin Long (Drag Me to Hell, Accepted) as Keith and Michael Nyqvist (John Wick, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Alan. It was interesting to see Michael playing a romantic lead. He is an excellent actor and in this crime mystery he was good, but I have to tell you I felt he was not the best choice for the role. The intensity he has displayed in previous movies did not translate well in this one. Set in Las Vegas and Paris, I was initially interested with the story line and thought the acting was good throughout the film. One of the reasons why I did not feel totally connected to the story was the lack of back story or depth with the Frank and Lola characters. I could see what the writer was trying to do but it did not take me where I needed to be to truly get into the story. I love movies but I did not love watching this one much.

 

2 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Trailer: Cafe De Flore

The sun’s light provides you with vitamin D. If you get too much sunlight you could damage your skin, even get a disease. Water is a vital component in maintaining a healthy body, however too much of it could wash out important nutrients or do something worse to your body. There are some people who fill their life with extremes. You may have heard someone say, “they play hard” or “party hard,” which means the individual does something to excess. I used to work with someone who would constantly come into the office hung over from a night of drinking. There are just some people who do not have the word “moderation” in their vocabulary. If I think about it is there anything one can do to an extreme without it being harmful in some way? At the health club I have seen people work out for hours; it cannot be healthy since they not only look like skeletons, they are creating hormonal changes in their bodies. Or have you ever been with someone who quickly wants to become part of your life? I have dated a couple of these individuals and I have to tell you I found it creepy. You may have experienced something like it. They start liking the same things you do, start using your funny catch phrases or sayings and want to be with you every minute of the day. Whether you say excessive or obsession it is not a good thing. A relationship with obsessive love will be an unhealthy one, filled with side effects.    SUCCESSFUL Montreal based DJ Antoine Godin’s, played by Kevin Parent (The Calling, La Maison du Pecheur), love ended his marriage. Parisian native Jacqueline, played by Vanessa Paradis (Fading Gigolo, Heartbreaker), experienced the same thing but for totally different reasons. This dramatic romance had two parallel stories running at the same time: one set in Paris during the 1960s and the other in present day Montreal. It was not hard going back and forth between the stories in this film festival winning movie because each of them covered weighty topics. The actors were well suited to handle the script; they kept things interesting for me. There was an element of mystery or maybe I should say suspense in the way the stories revealed little things that tried to tie the two together; however, I could not figure it out. It had the feeling of mysticism or psychic connection I believe, as several scenes introduced were dream sequences. This was confusing for me. Separately I was interested in each story though I was more involved with the story line for Jacqueline. I am guessing many viewers of this film have seen or reacted similarly to the actions of the characters; that is what kept my interest. However, I felt if the movie studio had done two separate films for the stories each would have been stronger. French was spoken with English subtitles.

 

2 1/4 stars — DVD

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: My Old Lady

It is funny how one person may think a tidbit of information is important to know, while another feels it is insignificant. As the years pass the bond between friends and family solidifies, where shared experiences provide more knowledge about each other. There may even be a point in time where you could anticipate what the other person would do in a situation. Having this type of awareness can help prevent some types of conflict or disagreements. After being part of each other’s life for some years imagine what kind of surprise it would be to discover something you never knew about your friend or family member. I had a relative who remarried later in life. The entire family had heard his new bride was a singer in Europe, but the way we were told made it sound like she sang at weddings and open mic nights at several local establishments. Since I never heard her sing, I did not give much thought to her past life of being an entertainer. Recently I had a member who came up to me after class to ask about a yoga pose. We started talking and she mentioned she had just returned from a European trip. When she brought up she visited the country of her birth, which happened to be the same place where my relative’s wife grew up, I was curious to see if she had ever heard of her. I was stunned when she not only knew about my relative’s wife, but had been to several of her concerts. She continued heaping praise on her to the point I was upset I never got the chance to hear more about my relative’s life story.    SURPRISE was in store for Mathais Gold, played by Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda, The Last of Robin Hood), when he inherited an apartment in Paris. Upon arriving to inspect the apartment Mathais was shocked to find Mathilde Girard, played by Maggie Smith (Harry Potter franchise, Quartet), living in the place. It would be the first of many surprises. I wished I had enjoyed this comedic drama more because I thought Maggie and Kevin did a wonderful job of acting, along with Kristin Scott Thomas (Gosford Park, The English Patient) as Chloe. They did everything to try and make their characters come to life. However, the script was poorly done; there were gaps where the story dragged and felt uneven. On the plus side I found the idea behind the story interesting and enjoyed watching Maggie’s performance. It came as a surprise to me when I realized at the end of the movie I could only give an average star rating to this dramatic comedy with its exceptional cast.

 

2 1/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: As Above, So Below

The shine of its skin invited you to choose it. Deeply hued in red with lighter shadows, there was a firmness felt when you picked it up, bringing it closer to your face. As you bit down on the apple, hearing the crisp crunch of it as you drew a piece into your mouth, your anticipation was elevated to meet your expectations for the impending sweet taste to fill your waiting mouth. As you moved the apple back within your eyesight and before your taste buds registered the taste, you saw the horrific sight of blackened, decayed flesh under the skin of the apple. To make matters worse you were not seeing the beginning edges of it but the middle part as your brain registered sour bitterness in your mouth. What I just described to you was an example of disappointment. To avoid this feeling I do as much as possible to avoid any reviews or hype about a movie I plan on seeing to review. Trust me this takes discipline, for I used to be the type of person who was lead through life by my high expectations. I learned the hard way that these expectations were a burden to carry around as they tended to pave a straight road to disappointment. The city of Paris is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. Not a fan of horror movies I was hoping to see some great shots of the city in this horror film.    SCARLETT, played by Perdita Weeks (Prowl, Hamlet), was in search of a special object that most explorers only considered to be a myth. Part of a small group of adventurers that included George and Benji, played by Ben Feldman (Cloverfield, Mad Men-TV) and Edwin Hodge (The Purge, Red Dawn); Scarlett needed the help of Papillon, played by Francois Civil (Moliere, Elles), to lead the group deep down into the Catacombs of Paris. It was there she hoped to find the elusive item, but she would also find much more. Let me get right to the point; this horror thriller was one of the worst films I have seen this year. I was stunned by the amateur writing in the script and poor acting. It seemed as if the writers went through their childhood memories of carnivals and Halloween horror houses to just pull out random things to fill the scene, hoping to scare the viewers. I was bored for the majority of the movie; this picture really came across like a cheap knockoff of a knockoff. And the biggest disappointment for me was not getting to see any decent outdoor scenes of Paris. I should have taken the money I used for this film and spent it on a couple of European travel magazines instead.

 

1 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Le Week-End

Even though it may have been painful to learn some of these relationship rules, I hold all of them close to my heart: No one can go to bed angry; Never raise your voice; Remember to talk about how you feel; If something is bothering you discuss it immediately, not months later; Realize there will be some things you will have to do that you will not like; Show your love. This is not a complete list and I realize each person has their own rules; but it is safe to say relationships require constant input as they evolve in time. I have seen couples that have grown distant from each other because they did not take into account that each of them was growing at a different pace and they did not talk about it. Communication is vital in my opinion and when I have met someone who never used the words “I” and “feel” in the same sentence, it immediately sent up a red flag for me. If you want to see a couple dealing with their changes in an adult, real and raw way then follow Nick and Meg, played by Jim Broadbent (Another Year, The Iron Lady) and Lindsay Duncan (About Time, Alice in Wonderland), in this award winning comedic drama. For their 30th wedding anniversary Meg and Nick decided to spend it in Paris, the place where it all began for them years ago. The beauty of the city remained the same but things looked different with older eyes. I do not think this movie would have worked if they had used any other actors besides Jim and Lindsay. They blended so well together that I was experiencing a nervous anticipation during some of their conversations. For his small role I thought Jeff Goldblum (The Switch, The Fly) was wonderful as Morgan, one of Nick’s former proteges. When I say this was an adult film, it is meant to express the real issues this couple was experiencing. Though I believe younger adults would find this film boring, I think the movie honestly shows what people go through in their relationships. I did find times where I was becoming bored with some of the bickering; it felt like the same subject was being rehashed. There will be some of you that will find the script too wordy. I know it is early in the season, but I can see Jim Broadbent being nominated for this role. When it comes to relationships, if you want to make them bloom you sometimes have to get your hands dirty.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Past

There is a method to my madness, just hear me out. Until I see a movie I avoid reading any reviews of it. I want to know as little as possible about a film, only allowing myself to see the movie trailer, though sometimes the trailer is better than the whole picture. After I have seen the movie then I will look at some of the reviews. This is why in my reviews I barely mention any particular scene details or facts about the story line. With today’s review, this is the perfect example to show you why I prefer to blindly walk into a theater with my mind an open and blank slate. I had no idea this dramatic mystery was directed by Asghar Farhadi (About Elly) who directed one of my favorite films of 2011, A Separation. Gratefully I did not know which movies won at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival because this movie was a winner. The only thing I knew when I went to see this picture was it had subtitles. The movie started and I immediately found myself in Paris, witnessing a separated couple finishing up the process of their divorce. There were children involved from past and present relationships; however, hanging over everyone like a dense fog, hampering everyone’s senses was a woman in a coma. Every scene in this movie had an authentic sense of true emotion; the cast could have easily been a friend, relative or acquaintance of yours because they never came across as if they were actors acting. They were just being real. Let me name a few of the exceptional performers: there was Berenice Bejo (The Artist, A Knight’s Tale) as the soon to be ex-wife Marie Brisson; Ali Mosaffa (Leila, The Last Step) as the Iranian husband Ahmad and Tahar Rahim (A Prophet, The Eagle) as the live-in boyfriend Samir. I felt as if I was a guest invited into the lives of these individuals, sitting with them when they were eating, wanting to comfort them when they were sad. There were no special effects needed, no sudden unexplained turns in the story that would leave one wondering; all that was there were genuine feelings of fear, guilt, love and doubt. This film is one of the reasons why I love going to the movies. I do not have to pack an overnight bag, wait in long security lines or dress in a particular way; yet, I do get to leave all the things that make up my daily life and experience for a moment how other people live their lives. The dialog was done in French and Persian languages with English subtitles.

 

3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Smurfs 2

Sequels are unusual due to the fact they suffer from a personality disorder. When they are done well, the movie viewer is able to take fresh fond memories and store them with the seasoned ones that are already up in a cupboard of their mind. I feel a closer connection to the characters after I see a good sequel; for example, Ironman or Before Midnight. In a way it feels as if I caught up with an old friend. There are some movies that should never have a sequel because the original movie was classic, such as Sleeping Beauty, Pinnochio or Lawrence of Arabia. It would be upsetting to see a sequel that soiled the pristine features of an iconic film. Out of all the sequels there is a certain group that I consider the most offensive. These are the ones that were made as an afterthought because the movie studio was surprised with the large revenue generated from the first film. To me the movie sequels in this group are only there because of greed. Case in point is this movie. First of all, are Smurfs even relevant these days? I do not know anyone whose children have some kind of Smurf branded item. In this sequel the evil wizard Gargamel, played by Hank Azaria (Godzilla, Love & Other Drugs), has created two mischievous creatures called the Naughties. The one thing missing to complete them for his evil plan was in a secret formula. The only way he could get his hands on it was to kidnap Smurfette, voiced by Katy Perry. The Smurfs would need their human friends Patrick and Grace Winslow, played by Neal Patrick Harris (Undercover Brother, How I Met Your Mother-TV) and Jayma Mays (Red Eye, Glee-TV), to foil Gargamel’s plan. The story was made up of a series of one-liners and sight gags. There was no character development which attributed to the blase acting. Hank was the only actor that looked like he was trying to act and make the best of the pathetic script. In regards to Brendan Gleeson (Safe House, Gangs of New York) as Patrick’s stepdad Victor, I was simply embarrassed for him. I can only assume Neal was under contract because with his string of hosting successes there would be no reason to sully that with this poor sequel. The best parts of this comedy movie were the animation and outdoor scenes of Paris; the worst part was everything else. On a sad note it was touching to see the dedication to Jonathan Winters who voiced Papa Smurf. The sadness was because this film had to be his final performance. If you plan on seeing the film, then stay through to the end of the credits.

 

1 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Farewell, My Queen

“Let them eat cake” is a famous quote that we attribute to Marie Antoinette. Actually there is no record of her really uttering those words, but the quote has come to symbolize the disconnect between the wealthy upper class and the impoverished lower class. Many of us were taught about the French Revolution in our high school European history class. This movie dealt with the final days of Louis XVI’s monarchy. What fascinated me about this wonderful film was how it was seen through the eyes of Marie Antoinette’s reader.  This was way before there were electronic readers and books on tape. Sidonie Laborde, played by Lea Seydoux (Midnight in Paris, Robin Hood) was the servant assigned to read to Marie Antoinette, played by Diane Kruger (Unknown, Inglourious Basterds). I found the concept of a reader a bit odd, but I so enjoyed the way this version of the monarchy’s downfall unfolded. Diane was beautiful in this role as the remarkable queen holed up in the opulent Versailles castle, carrying out her daily desires, keeping her female confidant close by; while word of an uprising in Paris spread throughout the gossiping servants. With tension building among the members of the royal court, chaos sputtered into life through the castle. We had the beauty of Versailles on display, the consistent pacing and fine acting which made this film a fresh version of French history. No readers will be allowed into the theater; you will have to do your own reading, since the film was done in French with English subtitles.

 

3 stars

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