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Flash Movie Review: Red Sparrow

FOR MANY YEARS I DID NOT realize the ability to “read” an individual was a gift. I just assumed everyone was capable of doing it. As a kid there was a teenage neighbor that was polite and quiet. I did not have much interaction with him; I thought it was due to the age difference. However I always got a cautious feeling when he was around me. I could not explain it but there was just something about him that made me wary of him. One day I was walking down the backstairs with a cousin when the neighbor appeared at the bottom of the stairs we were about to descend. Without warning the teenager threw a rock at us and hit my cousin in the forehead. As the two of us ran back up the stairs the neighbor ran out into the alley and disappeared. Another example of being able to see a person’s true self happened when a friend of mine started to date this man who right from the start was making her all these promises of what their life would be together. Really, I thought; it was not long into their new relationship when his true intentions came out. The guy told her his funds were temporary tied up and he needed $500.00. Need I go any further in this story?     SO THE ABILITY TO GET a sense of a person’s true intent is a valuable tool to include (if available) in one’s check off list when evaluating an individual. Now I do want to make it clear there is a distinction between “reading” a person and making a judgment about them. I do not believe my feelings about someone are written in stone; it may be only a feeling that causes me to be more cautious, but I do not assume the person is absolutely what I think they are in inside. Only time will tell the truth and even that is not always a given. I guess this is the area where one can only look for red flags, warnings that something is not right. I have heard just from my friends alone, so many stories about a person pretending to be someone they are not. It is even more prevalent on social media sites. And the ironic thing is this has been going on for such a long time; the only difference is there are now more people being duped who have stopped giving a person the benefit of the doubt, taking longer before they begin to trust someone. The main character in this mystery thriller will show you how it is done.     PRIMA BALLERINA DOMINIKA EGOROVA’S, played by Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games franchise, Joy), career was cut short due to an accident during a performance. With no other means to support herself and her mother, she was ripe to be recruited into a special Russian spy program. She would become a quick learner. With Joel Edgerton (The Gift, Warrior) as Nate Nash, Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl, Rust and Bone) as Vanya Egorov, and Charlotte Rampling (45 Years, Never Let Me Go) as Matron; I thought the actors were well cast in this film. Granted Jennifer was the star of the story and gave it her best, but due to the uneven script I did not get totally wrapped up into the story. There were scenes that were intense but then we would go through a dull lull before something exciting happened again. I thought the story was sound but not everything clicked together in this picture. Also I felt the violence and sex on display were used as a distraction for the poorly written script. I had a sense this film would not match up to the excitement of the movie trailers; I guess I should listen to myself more often.

 

2 stars

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Flash Movie Review: Our Kind of Traitor

There is a saying that I have seen in numerous places recently; it goes, “Being kind is easier than being mean.” I have noticed it on social media sites, T-shirts and heard it talked about on television talk shows; it seems to be everywhere. Now here is my question, “Why?” Why are so many people (at least to me) talking about kindness? I can remember a time where it was polite to hold the door open for someone, to give up one’s seat to someone else on public transportation or let a person enter in ahead of you. Really, how much of a burden would it be to do any of these acts? Something happened that has turned kindness into a rare gemstone; days could go by before I would see an example of it being done. There certainly is a layer of distrust that has permeated our consciousness. A good example of why this is would be the time I signed up for a newspaper subscription from a high school student who knocked on my front door. They took my money but I never received a paper, finding out the newspaper company never solicits subscriptions in such a way. Another reason I feel is due to the electronic revolution we have been embracing. With the fraud now associated to our ATM and charge cards, a good portion of us are afraid to click on any email links. That simple click could unleash a virus on one’s electronic device that will steal our identity, wipe out our savings and possibly lead a path for the virus to seek out our contacts. I have gone through at least half a dozen times where my bank has called me due to fraudulent activity on my charge card. It is enough to make a person go back to the old days and pay cash for everything. Stuff like this is only one part of the factors that cause a person to hold back from doing a kind act. Then again, see what happens when one does something kind in this movie thriller.   LITTLE did Perry, played by Ewan McGregor (Star Wars franchise, The Impossible), know that the offer of a drink by Dima, played by Stellan Skarsgard (The Avengers franchise, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo), would have such an effect on his life. This story based on John le Carre’s (A Most Wanted Man, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) novel had a good mix of actors that also included Naomie Harris (Skyfall, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) as Gail. Stellan was outstanding in the role to the point I felt he dominated the movie screen. The story started out slow and though I did not read the book, I found myself able to predict where the story would lead next. Being able to figure out the story was kind of a drag on my enjoyment level while watching this film. At least the acting quality was at a good enough level for me to stay interested in what was going on. I guess this is my way of being kind to this picture.

 

2 ¾ stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The November Man

The time was put in and you felt you paid your dues. There was a sense of success associated with the job that enabled you to feel proud. But when the time came you were done; you did not want to have to put in another day doing the same thing you had been doing for many years. A long time ago I had a part-time job as the manager for a furniture company’s moving crews. Prior to taking the position, the department was constantly under fire from customer complaints about the damage caused by the crews delivering the furniture. My responsibilities were to setup weekly routes for the various crews; manage the loading of the moving vans and reduce damages to a minimum. It was a grueling job since more times than not I had to fill in and be part of a crew. I was constantly amazed by the customers who bought furniture that would not fit into their houses. When the time came to leave that job I was glad and vowed I would never move another piece of furniture again. However, I soon learned never to say never because anytime a friend asked me to help them move something I could not say no. These are some of the things you just do for friends.    Similarly former CIA agent Devereaux, played by Pierce Brosnan (Love is All You Need, The Ghost), had the same dilemma when he agreed to come out of retirement to extract a friend from a potentially hostile situation in Russia. Due to the length of time away from the agency, there was a chance Devereaux’s special skills would not be able to serve him well this time. This action thriller played out as a light version of James Bond; without the sophistication, charm and witty dialog. Though there were plenty of explosions and chases, the script was a poor excuse for a crime film. Pierce was convincing in his role which helped fellow cast members Luke Bracey (Monte Carlo, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) as Mason and Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, Seven Psychopaths) as Alice. Unfortunately the directing was not very good; I found myself becoming bored as the story spiraled into a multitude of cliches and predictability. With the recent releases of these action films starring aging movie stars and their obvious stunt doubles, I did appreciate the fact that Pierce appeared to be doing some of his own stunts; if not, the camera work was much better here because it was convincing to me. It would have been fun to watch Pierce in this type of role since I was always fond of his James Bond movies; however, it could not be found here because this film was easily forgettable.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Way Back

It can be seen as early as infancy. Some may mistake it for stubbornness, but it really is not. I feel a person is born with it, this determination to succeed. I have seen some babies spend untold time on a single item or toy until they came to some sort of conclusion in figuring it out. For all my years working in fitness centers, I have seen adults with walkers or in wheelchairs struggling against their own bodies to lift a weight or walk the track. I am in awe of the determined drive they have in achieving their goal. There are stories that come out that talk about something that seems humanly impossible. One such true story is Slavomir Rawicz’s book “The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom” which inspired this Academy Award nominated movie. The year was 1940 as the world was breaking out into war. A group of men sentenced to a Siberian prison camp made their escape in the dead of winter. From the frigid arctic cold to the unbearable heat of the Gobi desert to the heights of the Himalayas, they walked 4000 miles as they made their way to India. I know, this story sounds unimaginable; but it made for a riveting film that was beautifully directed by Peter Weir (The Truman Show, Dead Poet’s Society). Jim Sturgess (One Day, Cloud Atlas) played the wrongly accused Polish prisoner Janusz. His skills would help the small band of escapees on their perilous journey. The casting for this dramatic adventure was a major asset in bringing the story to life. Among the actors were Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind, A History of Violence) as Mr. Smith, Colin Farrell (Phone Booth, Total Recall) as Valka, Mark Strong (Body of Lies, Kick-Ass) as Khabarov and Saoirse Ronan (The Host, Atonement) as Irena. The scenes were so thoughtfully set up that I easily accepted everything as being real. In fact, I felt a shiver as I watched the men struggling in the cold harsh conditions. Though the film was long I never felt bored; even in simple scenes that seemed unnecessary, I felt the director was accurately portraying the group’s physical and emotional struggles. This really was an amazing feat of human strength that was done justice by this film. Some scenes had Russian and Polish with English subtitles. A few scenes briefly showed blood.

 

3 1/3 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Anna Karenina

My father’s side of the family traces itself back to Russia. I remember my parents had an old shoebox filled with thick postcard sized photographs of my father’s relatives. All of the pictures were sepia toned, showing somber relatives dressed in heavy clothing. I would periodically go through the photos imaging what those relatives’ lives were like back then. There was one picture in particular that I liked of my uncle. He was bundled in a big fur coat and oversized shearling hat that was pulled down low to his eyebrows, as he was standing up in a reindeer drawn sled. While watching this lush looking film I was reminded of those old photographs. Each scene in this movie was presented in such a way that I felt I was paging through an aristocratic family’s photo album. Adding in the beautiful musical score only made the experience more pleasing. Based on Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, the story set in 19th century Russia was about the life of Anna Karenina, wife of prominent Aleksei Karenin, played by Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes franchise, Enemy at the Gates). High society was spun into a frenzy when Anna, played by Keira Knightly (A Dangerous Method, The Duchess), was swept up into a torrid affair with the well known Count Vronsky, played by Aaron Taylor (The Illusionist, Nowhere Boy). Keira has a gift for portraying emotionally distraught characters. Jude Law was excellent in his role, showing a restrained maturity. As for Aaron playing Count Vronsky, it was not convincing to me. It might have been because he looked too young or just did not have the acting skills to pull off the character. From the trailers I anticipated a classic story blossoming into a breath taking movie experience. Sadly, the movie was a big disappointment for me. Several times I caught myself beginning to nod off; I was bored for a good portion of the film. The theater within a theater filming made for a pretty picture; however, it made the story choppy. I would have had a better time getting that frail shoebox filled with family photos and going through the pictures again.

 

2 1/2 stars

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