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Flash Movie Review: The Old Man and the Gun

THOUGH SHE APPEARED TO BE AN OLDER woman, I would never ask her age. She had been taking my yoga class for several weeks, bringing her own yoga mat and a bottle of water. Maybe I am stereotyping; but she had long gray hair pulled back into a ponytail that trailed halfway down her back, looking like a former hippie. Every week while I lead the class into warming up poses I provide a little distraction by listing celebrity birthdays for the week. One of the reasons I do this is to break the ice with any new participants who have that “new kid on the block” mentality, coming to class for the 1st time. I will ask the class if they know so-and-so, wait if anyone guesses what the celebrity did to make he/she famous, then reveal their age. So, this one week after I went through my list of celebrity birthdays, the older woman piped up it was also her birthday. I and the rest of the class wished her well. She then said she was happy to say she was 82 years old. I knew she was an older individual but honestly, I would never have guessed that was her age. She told us she loves yoga and has been doing it for decades; what an inspiration.      I WAS JUST AS FORTUNATE IN the work world to have met people like that woman in my yoga class. They loved their job, so they stayed employed way past their retirement age. At one of the companies I worked at, the owner came to work every day. He was always busy and kept this up way into his 90’s. There certainly is some truth in finding something you love or are passionate about to feel successful. I had a relative who would always say they were not going to work, they were going to play because they enjoyed what they did at their job. You know how some people are married to their work; where all they think and talk about is their job? Well they do not necessarily love what they do; they have formed an identity for themselves based on their occupation. The individuals I have referred to each have their identity in tack; they just want to continue what they do because they love it. I feel this way about doing my movie reviews and hope I can continue doing them for a long time because they bring me such joy. The same thing can be said about the main character in today’s comedic, crime drama.      FORREST TUCKER, PLAYED BY ROBERT REDFORD (The Natural, Truth); was good at what he did, besides getting immense joy out of it. The only downside was the consequences would be steep if he had a misstep. With Casey Affleck (A Ghost Story, The Finest Hours) as John Hurt, Sissy Spacek (The Help, Coal Miner’s Daughter) as Jewel, Danny Glover (Proud Mary, Back in the Day) as Teddy and Tom Waits (Seven Psychopaths, Down by Law) as Waller; this film festival nominee was based on a true story and what a story! Rumor has it this will be Robert’s last acting role. If it is he at least can end his chapter on a high note with this role. It was such a treat to watch him and Sissy, two seasoned actors, play off each other. The story started out slow for me but continued building itself up to a point where I was enjoying watching the mixture of emotions that took place on screen. It was obvious Robert was having a good time doing this character since it came across fully. I must give everyone who worked on this film credit; this will sound cheesy but if there was any labor involved in the making of this picture it was a labor of love.

 

3 stars  

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Flash Movie Review: Pete’s Dragon

I did not actually have what you would call imaginary friends; they were more like superheroes who looked a lot like me except skinnier and taller. During the time they were around me I did not realize they were all mental extensions of me. None of them had names but each one specialized in one superhuman power. There was the one who could fly; he was a lookout for me, letting me know of any danger spots around me. One of my favorite ones was this brawny fighter who appeared anytime I was angry. If someone had picked on or teased me, he would appear in a rage and pummel the bully so I could be left alone to continue my studies in class. This one in particular stayed with me the longest, evolving into my bodyguard. During an especially dismal time he was out almost every day. No one else knew about these imaginary friends if you want to call them that. My friends and I never really talked about our special friends though I can recall there were times where we needed people to be the enemy in our neighborhood battle scenes. We would be on one of our missions to track down the enemy’s secret headquarters when suddenly one of the members of our search party was sucker punched by an imaginary enemy operative. I would see a friend whirl around with his fists jabbing into the air to land a punch on the enemy’s jaw. Each of us took turns on getting attacked; the more dramatic we could be in our fake battles, the more satisfying it was when we would finally discover the hidden headquarters and blow it up with our ray guns. With all the imaginary beings I had in my life, I wish I would have had a dragon like the one in this family adventure film.   WHEN Grace, played by Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World, The Help), discovered the orphan boy Pete, played by Oakes Fegley (This is Where I Leave You, Fort Bliss), living deep in the woods; she could not understand how he could have survived for so long on his own. He was not alone. This fantasy movie shared the same title as the original animated film but it was a different type of story. With a cast that also included Robert Redford (A Walk in the Woods, All is Lost) as Meacham and Karl Urban (Star Trek franchise, The Loft) as Gavin, I fell into this story that had sort of an E.T. slant to it. The pacing was not always smooth; there were a couple of slow parts for me. This was not a big issue because I actually enjoyed the simplistic script that basically was about the bonds that form between friends and family. I thought the special effects for the dragon were wonderful; at a certain point I felt this dragon would be the perfect pet for anyone. It was refreshing to sit and watch a movie that focused on telling a good story that a person could relate to no matter their age.

 

3 stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Truth

They were not just a nightly dinner guest, they were more like family as we ate dinner in front of them. I remember the television being on while I would be sitting at the dining room table or sometimes directly in front of the TV with a snack tray in front of me, so I could watch the news. This is how we would learn what was taking place around the world besides in our city. Every night it was the same newscaster, who we trusted and believed, explaining events that made no sense initially, along with showing us parts of the world I knew I would never visit. Some of you may have never experienced this method of getting the news; but I have to tell you, once trust was established with our newscaster we never doubted what they had to say. Our confirmation was always the next day’s daily newspaper. Now I can still recall news stands that were set up at various locations around the city, manned by individuals who would be hawking the latest editions of the city’s daily newspapers. These people sounded like sirens stuck on repeat as they kept announcing their wares. The papers always reiterated what the newscaster said the night before. It only seems to be a recent phenomenon where newscasts have taken more of a personal agenda slant on the news. To tell you the truth even with the news no further than our fingertips these days I never know who to trust.    TRUSTED newscaster Dan Rather, played by Robert Redford (A Walk in the Woods, All is Lost), and his long time producer Mary Mapes, played by Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Cinderella), felt they did a good job with their latest story airing on CBS’ 60 Minutes program. The story would not only shake the foundation of the TV network but also change the way people looked at the news. This film festival winning drama was fortunate to have Cate as part of the cast. She was by far the most engaging actor with her wonderful acting skills. This is not to say other actors such as Dennis Quaid (Vantage Point, The Day After Tomorrow) as Lt. Colonel Roger Charles and Topher Grace (Playing it Cool, Interstellar) were bad; they just did not evoke their feelings as well as Cate. I thought the script inspired by a true event focused more on the drama instead of telling a compelling story; there were scenes that needed more detail to explain the situation that was taking place at the moment. If it wasn’t for the acting on a whole, I would have found myself more disengaged than I already was during this biographical movie. By the end of the story I still had unanswered questions and that is the truth.

 

2 1/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: A Walk in the Woods

Usually I am met with perplexed looks on friends’ faces when I tell them one of the highlights of my trip was taking public transportation. I do not know if I can explain it, but something connects inside of me when riding public buses or trains in a new city. There is a dual feeling of being an outsider yet fitting in with a group of strangers, going through a similar routine. One of the major benefits of taking public transportation is the opportunity to see multiple sights in an easy and quick fashion. When I was in Rome I remembered waiting for a subway train, standing among a crowd of office workers. Except for the language they were no different from the ones I see on my daily commute to work. I feel like I get a sense of a city’s energy or vibe as I ride around it. Similar to my friends not judging me (or at least I hope not), I do not question the things they insist on doing while on vacation. There is one friend who has to go to at least one museum no matter where he winds up. It could be a major institution or a little shack that is run by an elderly couple who remember the history about the area. I am sure most of us have the need to participate in things that are challenging to explain to others who do not have the same thought process. For that reason I understood why the main character had to do what he needed to do in this adventure comedy.    BILL Bryson, played by Robert Redford (All is Lost, The Horse Whisperer), was given one requirement by his wife Catherine, played by Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Sense and Sensibility), if he insisted on going on this trip that made no sense to her. He could not go alone; he would have to find someone to join him. After going through a list of people, that someone turned out to be Stephen Katz, played by Nick Nolte (Warrior, Cape Fear), who still owed him $600.00. Having been out of touch for so many years, what would be the ultimate cost to have Stephen come with him? Based on Bill Bryson’s popular memoir, the cinematography was gorgeous in this film. I wished there had been even more shots of the landscape. The other thing I wanted was a decent script to match the caliber of the actors. All the story seemed to be was one lame gag after another; it was embarrassing to watch. It appeared as if all the writers wanted to do was provide schtick for Robert and Nick; it took away from the few decent scenes in this dramatic comedy. If the book of this true story has photos of his trip, I should have bought the book instead of watching this film version.

 

2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The first time it happened you chalked it up to a coincidence, but when it took place again you became suspicious. You shared sensitive information with a coworker. Later in the day you bumped into a fellow employee from a different department who made a comment that seemed odd. Feigning ignorance you let it slide, but as you returned to your desk you thought it was unusual for that employee to make such a comment out of nowhere, especially since the two of you were not close business associates. Later in the week you saw your coworker talking to that very same employee and you immediately understood why that employee made the comment to you; your coworker must have said something to them about you. When trust gets broken with me the first feeling I sense is the quick evacuation of oxygen from my body, as if someone had jumped on my stomach with both feet clad in steel toed boots. All the connections that were created between us shudder and crumble as the aftershocks prevent me from finding balance. It is a horrible feeling to place trust in a person or business and later discover you were betrayed; they were not who you believed them to be. In this action adventure Steve Rogers aka Captain America, played by Chris Evans (The Losers, Fantastic Four franchise), would question the placement of his trust when a new threat appeared to be getting the odds stacked in their favor. This film had a super throwback vibe between the forces of good and evil. I had a sense that all the actors like Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Don Jon) as Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow, Anthony Mackie (Real Steel, The Adjustment Bureau) as Sam Wilson aka Falcon and Robert Redford (All is Lost, The Electric Horseman) as Alexander Pierce were having a fun time filming this exciting movie. If you are not familiar with Captain America you may be at a slight disadvantage though the writers worked to fit in the back story of how Steve Rogers became Captain America throughout the film. There was a constant flow of action and excitement, but I found some of the fight scenes were so fast and in close-up that it was hard to make out each character’s actions. With a smart script filled with fun quips, an exciting story filled with surprise twists and a cast that met the physical demands of their roles while keeping solid chemistry between each other; I trust the powers that be will keep the Captain America franchise strong enough to yield more sequels. There were a couple of extra scenes up to the very end of the credits.

 

3 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: All is Lost

It was only on one flight where I thought the plane was in trouble and that I was not going to survive. The weather was storming through a major portion of our flight as we bounced around constantly. At one point the plane suddenly dropped in that roller coaster type of way for 3-5 seconds. Instead of my life flashing before me, it was several scenes of plane crashes I had seen in the movies. It figures, doesn’t it? Gratefully that was the only time where I even thought my life could end. I have, however, seen several people who were facing their own mortality. Each one of them was so courageous; I honestly do not know if I could handle looking at death the way they did. Death played a major part in this dramatic adventure movie. Robert Redford (The Company You Keep, Out of Africa) played a competent boatman on a solo trip somewhere in the Indian Ocean. When his boat was struck and damaged by an errant shipping container; he was left with only his wits, having to rely on creative means if he was going to survive the voyage. With very little dialog, Robert had to physically express all of his thoughts and emotions. It was a powerful performance that I felt would get recognized during the awards season. For his age I was impressed by several of his challenging scenes. Due to the lack of back story and dialog, I believe only a small group of people would enjoy this film. There were a couple of parts I found boring. This was the type of movie that critics will like more than the general moviegoer, I believe. The special effects were nothing that stood out for me, though I did find the storm scenes intense. If I were to sit and think about this film I am sure I could come up with some symbolism several scenes may have represented. However, that is not my style. My focus in watching movies is for the entertainment value, not debate the possibilities on the meaning of a scene. I have mixed feelings about this action film or maybe, I was just uncomfortable watching a man facing his own mortality. There was one scene where blood was shown.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Company You Keep

Due to the problems I had in high school, by the time I went to college I learned it was safer to not reveal much about myself. This meant being vague about my religion, my politics, even my taste in music; I did not want to take a chance in providing someone ammunition to pick on me. Going to an out of state college gave me the opportunity to be a different person. However, I had no idea how much energy it took to keep up a facade of total blankness; it made me tired. I can only imagine how much strength it takes for people in the witness protection program. In this thriller you will meet a group of individuals who have been undercover for 30 years. When a bank robbery went terribly wrong, members of the activist group behind the heist went into hiding. Thirty years later radical member Sharon Solarz, played by Susan Sarandon (Robot & Frank, Dead Man Walking), decided to turn herself in to the authorities. Shia LaBeaouf (Transformers franchise, Lawless) as investigative reporter Ben Shepard found it odd when civil rights lawyer Jim Grant, played by Robert Redford (The Sting, The Horse Whisperer), refused to take Sharon’s case. Not willing to take no for an answer, Ben tenaciously searched for answers from the evasive lawyer before the FBI removed any chance for Ben to break a great story. The cast was made up with Academy Award winners and nominees like Julie Christie (Away From Her, Don’t Look Now) as Mimi Lurie and Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, Liberal Arts) as Jed Lewis. Robert Redford was just okay as the director; but I found the idea of him being the father to eleven year old daughter Isabel, played by singing sensation Jackie Evancho, not believable. Though this movie was marketed as a thriller; I found for the most part scenes were somewhat tense, but those were few and far between. I was bored at times and it was a shame. The idea behind the story was great; sadly the execution of it was poor. This film needed the same type of passion that one can find in activists today.

2 1/4 stars 

Flash Movie Review: The Sting

My dark side flourished with evilness when I was younger. If I felt I had been crossed or had my trust broken, I would not walk away. Instead I would go on the attack. At a former company there was a co-worker who was friendly to my face, but then would go out of her way to put me down in front of management for her own gain. I decided if it was not business related I would not make a response to any of her actions, pretending she no longer existed. To drive the point home, whenever I brought a food treat into the office; i offered it to every single person but her. I discovered it drove her crazy, so I kept it up for 1 1/2 years. Looking back I realize my behavior was childish, but at the time it felt so good to do. Whether in a movie or real life I always vote for the bad person to get their just desserts. That is why this classic movie was so much fun to watch. Everything was precisely put into place from cast to story to director in creating this brilliant film. The time was the 1930’s in the midwest and young con artist Johnny Hooker, played by Robert Redford (The Natural, The Way We Were), wanted to get revenge on powerful gangster Doyle Lonnegan, played by Robert Shaw (Jaws, A Man for All Seasons), for ordering the hit on Johnny’s best friend. Knowing his limitations, Johnny needed help from master con artist Henry Gondorff, played by Paul Newman (Cool Hand Luke, Road to Perdition). The two men came up with an elaborate plan to get back at Lonnegan, hurting him where it mattered most. I have nothing negative to say about this dramatic comedy. With a wonderful score by Scott Joplin to the distinct titled segments; the Oscar winning movie was filled with surprise twists. From the outstanding acting, directing and writing; this cinematic treasure delivered pure good justice.

 

4 stars — DVD

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