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Flash Movie Review: Spies in Disguise

HE MAY HAVE THOUGHT WE WERE friends but that was not really the case. I felt I had to for my own self-preservation. We hung around the same group of people. If I remember correctly, he was a friend of a friend who started including him in our get togethers. He had a loud and boisterous personality that was quick with sarcasm; that was the part of him that was fun to be around. However, he also had a quick temper that was the first thing to flare up in any kind of confrontational circumstances. His “go-to” comment was “Do you want to take this outside?” This is the reason why I stayed on good terms with him; I did not want to get pulled into his negative drama. Whenever we would all go out to a club, the chances were better than 50% he would get into some type of altercation with one of the patrons of the place. I found it maddening and ridiculous because before you knew it, he would be asking the person to join him outside. Now granted he made an imposing figure; but still, there was no reason he needed the theatrics. The way I used to deal with him was simply to agree to his extreme pontifications on life and living, by nodding my head or grunting a sound that he could interpret as an affirmative answer.      THOUGH IT HAS BEEN YEARS SINCE I have seen him, he is the first person I think of whenever I hear someone saying, “Do you want to take this outside?” Even if I hear it in a movie, he comes to mind. I was never the type of person who willingly confronted someone. Growing up people fell into two categories, aggressive or passive. I was in the passive group during my childhood years. It was not until I was in college before I found my voice. After what I went through during high school, I worked on myself to get to a point where no one would take advantage of me. It was not an easy process by any means; but I acquired the tools necessary to have an argument without including negative or demeaning comments. What I learned that was valuable to me was to remove the emotions from the equation and talk about my feelings instead. There are some people who think if they talk loudly enough, they will win the fight; as you know that does not work in the real world. As I was watching this animated, action adventure I identified more with one of the characters than the other; you probably could guess which one.      AFTER INGESTING AN EXPERIMENTAL CONCOCTION WITHOUT it being tested, the only thing super spy Lance, voiced by Will Smith (I Am Legend, Men in Black franchise) had to rely on was his wits and new-found avian abilities to bring down an evil genius bent on destroying the agency. With Tom Holland (Spider-Man franchise, In the Heart of the Sea) voicing Walter, Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Robin Hood) voicing Killian, Reba McEntire (The Little Rascals, One Night at McCool’s) voicing Joyless and Rachel Brosnahan (The Finest Hours, Patriots Day) voicing Wendy; this film festival nominee had wonderful animation work. Including the cast of actors; overall, this was a pleasant, family friendly film to watch. There was nothing extreme about it; I felt it fell in the middle of other animated films. There was more of a focus on fun instead of a series of humorous jokes and pranks. The message however was what grabbed me the most. I connected more with the last half of the film, finding it to be a touching statement. If you choose to see this film, you would easily see why I felt a strong affinity to one of the characters.

 

2 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: Johnny English Strikes Again

THERE ON THE RACK YOU SEE a sweater that not only grabs your eye, but you know you must have it. You start going through the rack; unfortunately, the color you want is not in your size. The style is what grabbed you at first and you know yourself so well.  Your wanting of it is now turning into a need. After checking the entire rack you are now faced with making a decision. The sales staff was no help because there was nothing left in stock; so, if you want the sweater you will have to settle on a different color. Blue is your favorite color, so you certainly do not want the brown or red one. Looking at the remaining colors you picture yourself wearing each color. The decision was not that difficult; you settle on the green colored sweater. You take satisfaction in your purchase because you know if you did not buy the sweater you would be thinking about it for a long time. Green was not such a bad color, you could deal with it not being blue.      THERE ARE SOME INDIVIDUALS WHO WOULD not have bought the sweater; they are the type who will not settle for something less than the exact thing they want. I believe I fluctuate somewhere in between, depending on the item. For a recent holiday we decided to celebrate at a restaurant. There were eight of us around an oval table. When it came to ordering off the menu, three of us chose the same thing. It was a turkey dinner with mashed potatoes and a cooked vegetable. After the waiter left with our orders we sat around talking while nibbling on the appetizers. In a few minutes the waiter came back to tell us out of the three turkey dinners, there were only two left. I was the first to speak up and told the waiter to give the other two their dinners; I would instead have the turkey burger and fries. The waiter was apologetic and left with my order. For me it was not a big deal; they didn’t have anymore, so what was I to do? When the meals were served the restaurant manager came up to apologize. I accepted his apology, so he would leave and all of us could start to eat. The meal was okay, but it was not a full dinner that looked especially good; I just settled for the turkey burger because I did not want there to be a fuss. The same thing could be said about this comedy film; If you do not have time to see a great movie, then this one might be okay instead.      WHEN A CYBER-ATTACK EXPOSES THE identities of Britain’s secret service agents there is only one agent available who is off the grid retired agent Johnny English, played by Rowan Atkinson (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bean franchise). Can old school spying work in a computer connected world? This action adventure also starred Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks, Bridget Jones’ Baby) as Prime Minister, Ben Miller (Paddington 2, What We Did on our Holiday) as Bough and Olga Kurylenko (The Death of Stalin, Hitman) as Ophelia Bauletova. This entire film had a retro vibe that reminded me of the Pink Panther movies. There was nothing that stood out as horrible; but for the most part, everything in the story seemed like it was done before. Rowan is quite good with physical comedy which is lucky since most of the script was having a gag upon gag upon gag. I did not find anything hilarious; possibly because the set-ups were all predictable to me. If the show times aren’t working for you to see a better film and you are the type who doesn’t mind settling, then this picture would just be okay. But do not spend money on a full priced ticket.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Spy Who Dumped Me

FRIENDS HAVE TOLD ME I should write a book about all the excuses I have heard to end a relationship. You might think I am making them up but that is not the case; some of the ones I will list here were given to me. One of my favorites is the one where our relationship had to end because I lived in the suburbs. It wasn’t as if I resided in the farthest suburb that was miles away, where one needed to pack a lunch before heading out. My house was literally 5 blocks from the city limits; from my place to theirs was a total of six miles that was easily accessible by car, bus or train. From someone else their reason to me why they were ending the relationship was because I walked too fast. My response was to ask if it had ever occurred to them to ask me to slow down. How was I supposed to know otherwise? I have long legs; so, I guess I cover more ground quicker than someone with shorter legs? Several of the other excuses that people have told me they heard were: you are too intense, we have different interests and you are not an animal lover.      AN IMPORTANT LESSON I LEARNED ABOUT break-ups is to not take them personally. I know, it can be hard not to take them personally; but in my experiences a majority of the time I had not caused the separation between us. There were times where I later found out they were going through personal issues that had nothing to do with me. I will say I have gained something from every person I have ever dated. At the time I may not have understood what insight I had received; but eventually, it would reveal itself to me so that I could get a better understanding about myself. Sound too deep? Yea, I agree; I do not want to turn this review into a session of therapy. One more thing and then I will move on; I was not always an understanding individual who would take the ending of a relationship in stride. Oh no, I could easily turn it back on them and get real ugly. There were a few where I not only gave them a piece of my mind but gave them an encyclopedia of derogatory adjectives to describe what I saw as their failings. And I never did it in a text message; unlike what happened to the poor woman in this action comedy.      NOT ONLY DID AUDREY, PLAYED BY Mila Kunis (Black Swan, Bad Moms franchise), not know why her boyfriend Drew, played by Justin Theroux (The Girl on the Train, American Psycho), broke up with her; but now she was wanted by people from all over the world and not in a good way. With Kate McKinnon (Rough Night, Office Christmas Party) as Morgan, Sam Heughan (Heart of Lightness, Outlander-TV) as Sebastian and Hasan Minaj (Most Likely to Murder, The Daily Show-TV) as Duffer; if for nothing else, the only reason one needs to go see this movie is for Kate McKinnon. She is truly gifted; watching her, I had to wonder if she was ad libbing half the script. Her timing and delivery was wonderful. Mila was good; but Kate is in a different category. As for the film the script could have used a couple of rewrites. I found the story going from one outrageous caper to another, some bordering on silly. At least I did get some laughs from time to time; but these 2 actresses easily could have taken on a better developed story and script. I think with a little tweaking and work Kate and Mila could be a long-term, fun relationship.

 

2 ½ stars         

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

Flash Movie Review: Keeping Up with the Joneses

I learned at an early age that having more body mass was not a way to keep up with the people around me. Assumptions were made that I could not hit or catch a ball and I must be slow in a game of tag. Though initially I did not think I was different as time went on I sort of fell into people’s expectations. Oh and not being able to wear the latest trends in clothing because they did not make them in my size really pushed me over the edge. What could I do? I did what others in my situation did, ditch these unwritten rules. Little did I know this was going to help me later in life.   AFTER living in apartments where all the residents pretty much were on equal footing, I bought a house. It was a major adjustment for me. From living in places where a building superintendant handled any issues, I was confronted with a neighbor who would point out everything that was wrong (in her opinion) with the outside of my house. First let me say she along with all the other neighbors loved (though I felt it was coming from an envious place) my landscaping. I was always getting complimented on it, though I had nothing to do with the lawn and flowers. A close friend of mine was a landscape architect who lived in a high rise building and missed getting his hands dirty. We were a perfect match because I disliked getting my hands dirty. My neighbor would sit out on her front porch and watch everything my friend did around the yard. Sadly this was the only thing she liked about my place. Anytime I was outside she would remind me I needed to do something about my storm windows, my screen door, my chimney; you get the point. From the lessons I was taught early on, I was able to ignore these reminders with a smile and a remark, “Really?” I did not need to keep up with her standards though you should with yours regarding this action comedy.   THE new neighbors, Natalie and Tim Jones, played by Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious franchise, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and Jon Hamm (The Town, Mad Men-TV), not only fit in with the neighborhood, they were perfect. They seemed a little too perfect for their neighbors Karen and Jeff Gaffney, played by Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers, Home and Away-TV) and Zach Galifianakis (Masterminds, The Campaign). Spying on the new couple would only show how perfect they were indeed, in certain areas of their life. What can I say about this movie; except to say it was poorly thought out and written. The script and story were generic; it was easy to see where the jokes would come in. A waste of talent even though I thought Gal and Jon made a fun couple; I would have liked to have seen this movie focus just on them. If you saw the trailer you already saw the film. You will not be missing anything if you decline an invitation to go see this movie at the theater. Do not feel you have to keep up with the newest movies out.

 

1 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

There are times where a dark cloud does not have a silver lining or an oyster has a pearl. A saying I like is “never judge a book by its cover.” I am sure all of us have been in a situation where you did not understand what your friend saw in their boyfriend or girlfriend. I have a friend who used to date a man I found crude and rude. Whenever we were invited to a party where there was food, he would be the first one and the last one to grab whatever was on the table. Not once did I ever hear him ask if anyone wanted anymore before he finished off the platter. If games were played he would be ultra-competitive, concerned only with winning and vanquishing his opponents. It was never a fun time. Where I felt it wasn’t my place to tell her that her boyfriend was a jerk, I had a friend who made his feelings known by telling me he hated the person I was dating. I finally had to sit him down and tell him I was uncomfortable with his actions. His reasons for the strong feelings were based on things that meant nothing to me. I saw kindness, humor and beauty inside of them; but I realize not everyone sees the same things because we do not walk in each other’s shoes.    SUPER secret agent Harry Hart, played by Colin Firth (The Railway Man, The King’s Speech) had a hunch there was something more behind the tough talking streetwise kid Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, played by Taron Egerton (Testament of Youth, The Smoke-TV). With a new threat looming could Harry transform “Eggsy” in time to join the agency, despite his fellow agents’ concerns. This action adventure film was pure fun. Written and directed by Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, X-Men: First Class), I enjoyed many aspects of this movie. The story was flavored with humor and I liked the idea of British gentlemen as spies. It reminded me of the character John Steed from an old TV show called The Avengers. Also included in the cast was Mark Strong (Body of Lies, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as Merlin and Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers, Pulp Fiction) as Valentine; they were perfect for their roles. The fight scenes did not have a dark edge which made them more high-tech treats; I tend to be fond of ordinary gadgets that have a dual purpose. Personally I would not mind if the movie studio made a sequel because I appreciated the way this comedy set out in the trailers what it planned to do; make a fun throwback type of secret agent film. What you see is what you get. There were scenes of blood and violence.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Fair Game

I do not know what you would call it exactly, but there is a certain freedom in being able to say anything I want when reviewing a movie. All I am doing is expressing my opinions and feelings, the same as any other reviewer. No matter what I write, I know there will be no retaliation from the movie studio. It would never occur to me that someone associated with a movie that I rated would go after me or a member of my family. I am fortunate to live in a country that gives its people the right to speak their mind. I have to tell you though, after seeing this film I am not that sure anymore. It was one thing to be familiar with the story when it actually was in the news; but it was another to watch the story unfold on film. In the capable hands of director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith), this political thriller was frightening to me. Using each of their books as a basis; Doug created a taut suspenseful film about CIA operative Valerie Plame, played by Naomi Watts (The Impossible, J. Edgar) and her American diplomat husband Joe Wilson, played by Sean Penn (Gangster Squad, Milk). After Joe wrote a disparaging article, critical of the current political administration, government officials decided to expose Valerie’s cover. Naomi and Sean were so good in their roles and in their relationship to each other; I felt they were channeling the real individuals. By showing the couple’s home life with their children, it only added more intensity to the horror of their situation. After watching this movie I was left thinking about what life would be like if no one was allowed to speak their mind. We would be left with what George Orwell told us about, a world ruled by Big Brother.

 

3 1/4 stars — DVD

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