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Flash Movie Review: Swiss Army Man

There was a time where they were used for something more important than displaying jewelry. I do not know if it is a passing fad or a new trend but I have seen them being stretched with round rings of a metal or plastic nature. Maybe it is still being done now but I remember some children would have small tubes stuck in their ears to help them with their hearing. Hearing used to be important and there was an art to being a good listener. Yes, being a listener was an important and admirable quality in a person. From a comment I recently read on one of my reviews and seeing this film, it dawned on me that fewer people take the time to listen these days. I cannot tell you how many times I have introduced myself and the person either doesn’t remember or gives me a different name within our initial conversation. The comment I was referring to earlier mentioned wherever you go there are always people just looking down at their phones, not interacting with anyone around them. I can do one better; having met someone at a movie function we texted back and forth to set up a time to get together. After a few texts back and forth I decided to call them because I get more out of having a conversation than a series of abbreviated words and emoticons. The voice message I left was the last communication between the two of us; I never heard from them again. I ask you, why are people so afraid to talk to one another. Being able to talk and express feelings can be therapeutic and healthy, just see what happens in this dramatic comedy.   DESPERATE and alone Hank, played by Paul Dano (Prisoners, Ruby Sparks), was about to end his life until he saw a body that had washed ashore. This film festival winning adventure picture had one of the most unusual story lines I have ever seen. With fellow cast mates Daniel Radcliffe (Now You See Me 2, Harry Potter franchise) as Manny and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane, Kill the Messenger) as Sarah; I initially sat in my seat perplexed by what I was watching on screen. As the uneven story progressed I started to understand what was going on and wound up enjoying this film. The acting was not only good but interesting; that is all I can say about it. There were parts that were humorous, parts that were touching and all finely threaded to keep the message on track. I do not know if this is a film for everyone, though I will say the story was certainly original. Instead of telling you this picture was more like an independent art film; I think it would be better to say this movie was not a mainstream one. If memory serves me correctly I believe at its showing at one of the film festivals some of the audience was cheering while others walked out. I chose to go see this film and listen to what it was trying to express.

 

3 stars  

 

 

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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: Love & Mercy

I feel very fortunate that I was introduced to a variety of music genres at an early age. For anyone who can put two musical tones together, they have my respect. Music has a way of clearing the fuzz off of our daily life, allowing us to experience emotions in a pure way. One of the first composers that made a strong connection with me was Ludwig van Beethoven. There were 2 things that grabbed my attention about him. The first was his place in history; he was a trendsetter, leading music from the baroque period to the romantic era. Next, his ability to continue writing music after he had become deaf amazed me. Beethoven was the first artist where I realized there could be a connection between great art and human suffering. Walk through any art museum and you are bound to experience breathtaking art done by an artist who had to deal with their own demons or tragedies. Cutting off an ear or dying from a horrible disease and yet these artists created something of lasting beauty; I have to wonder what came first, the ability or the suffering. Someone had once told me that when a person cannot use one of their 5 senses, the other ones acquire a heightened ability. An example for me would be Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles. Look at how many musical artists we have seen who died early or experienced some type of deficiency, yet produced music that not only moved us but stayed with us.    CREATING a whole new sound for a song took more than stringing a group of musical notes together for Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. He would have to battle against the voices in his head. No matter when you were born, more than likely you have heard at least one song by the Beach Boys. This film festival winning biography, not to be funny, blew my mind. Getting a glimpse of what was taking place during the time the Beach Boys were producing their hits, it was incredible to see what was happening to their major songwriter Brian. With the dual story lines Paul Dano (Prisoners, Ruby Sparks) played the younger Brian and John Cusack (Maps to the Stars, The Raven) played the older one. The 2 of them were excellent and I thought it was a great idea to have 2 actors play Brian as the script took us back and forth between the different eras. Also part of the cast in this musical drama included Elizabeth Banks (Every Secret Thing, Pitch Perfect franchise) as Melinda Ledbetter and Paul Giamatti (San Andreas, Cinderella Man) as Dr. Eugene Landy. Due to the story being so compelling, the minuses to this film were minor compared to the pluses. Once again here was an example of artistic genius coming out of painful darkness.

 

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

Flash Movie Review: Prisoners

The further technology advances the less personal it becomes is something everyone has heard. From what I have seen I believe it is true. For example, I have noticed a change in people’s reactions to amber alerts. Though everyone still acknowledges such news with sympathy, the feelings do not last long. Driving on the highways it is not uncommon to see an amber alert posted on the electronic signs hanging over the road. For myself, I will take note of the car’s description listed in the message but once I exit the highway the memory fades. With the immediate bombardment of news we get on a daily basis, the significance of each story bleeds into the next until all of it becomes this obscure sea of information that floats outside of us. That is not the case when it comes to this intense crime mystery movie; it brings the story down to a personal level. Hugh Jackman (X-Men franchise, The Prestige) in one of his best roles played Keller Dover, the father of a missing daughter. With his wife Grace, played by Maria Bello (Towelhead, Secret Window) suffering over the loss and Detective Loki’s, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Zodiac, End of Watch), perceived inability to arrest a suspect; Keller would take matters into his own hands, doing whatever it would take to find his daughter. I was totally taken by Hugh’s wide-ranging performance; he was incredible. It was funny, at first I did not understand Jake’s character because I thought the acting was odd from him. But then slowly I began to grasp what Jake was doing and found his interpretation to be quite powerful. It was a different type of character for him and I felt he nailed it. Viola Davis (Won’t Back Down, The Help) as Nancy Birch and Melissa Leo (Frozen River, The Fighter) as Holly Jones were outstanding; Viola does suffering better than almost any other actress I know. The story was not simple; in fact, I feel I need to see this film again to really make some connections I thought I was missing due to some twists. This was a tough, emotional, in your face movie filled with raw emotions, prepare yourself. It is one thing to hear or read about a crime; it is another to see it unfold in front of your eyes. There were several scenes of violence with blood.

 

3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Cowboys & Aliens

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but lasers will always hurt you. When I first heard about the mash up of cowboys and aliens I thought what a strange combination. Adding in the actors chosen for this film, I decided to check out and see if our latest James Bond actor could handle beings from outer space. Jake Loneran, played by Daniel Craig (Defiance, Casino Royale) woke up without his memory and a strange metal bracelet attached to his wrist. After wandering into the small town of Absolution, he was identified as a wanted man. Just as he was about to be hauled off to face justice, strange lights appeared in the sky that attacked the town. If people wanted to be saved they would have to stand behind Jake, who had the key to saving earth; he just did not know it. Daniel Craig did some things that reminded me of his James Bond character, but he was wooden in this performance. Harrison Ford (Air Force One, Extraordinary Measures), as feared landowner Woodrow Dolarhyde, was more like a mean Indiana Jones. The only reason Olivia Wilde (In Time, The Words) was cast as Ella Swenson was for the writers to inject a love interest angle into the story. Her story line made little sense to me. I was completely perplexed why Paul Dano (There Will be Blood, Ruby Sparks) would agree to play whining Percy Dolarhyde, Woodrow’s son. The story was silly rubbish; it was a disappointment. I liked the special effects and action but they were not enough to maintain my interest during the illogical parts. Daniel Craig better ditch the cowboy hat and go back to his stirred not shaken martini.

 

1 3/4 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Being Flynn

Welcome back Mr. De Niro, you have been missed. For the longest time, Robert De Niro (New Year’s Eve, Goodfellas) has been more like a caricature of himself; doing some cheesy, crappy movies. I was grateful to see him take on the role of Jonathan Flynn; a delusional, self-proclaimed writer. As an absentee father to his son Nick, played by Paul Dano (There Will be Blood, Cowboys & Aliens), Jonathan re-appeared into his son’s life, when he walked into the homeless shelter where Nick was employed. With this set-up the audience was treated to some fine acting from father and son, as the conflicted Nick wondered if there was a chance to connect with his dad. I felt the scenes in the shelter were some of the best in the movie. The story periodically jumped from present to Nick’s childhood, where we were fortunate to see Nick’s mother, Jody Flynn played by the wonderful Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right, Chloe). For the latter part of the movie, I felt the story weakened, slowing down the pace. If nothing else, it was good to see Robert De Niro take on a decent role. I only hope he continues to take on challenging roles and display that fine acting we were used to getting.

 

2 3/4 stars

 

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