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Flash Movie Review: Creed II

FOR THOSE WHO ENJOY PEANUT BUTTER and jelly sandwiches, there is an innate comfort associated with them. I am a smooth peanut butter and grape jelly type of guy, though I can mix it up with crunchy peanut butter at times. If you have a similar history to mine, then you remember a PB&J was one of the first sandwiches given to you. I remember how the peanut butter would get smoothed over the slice of bread before spreading the jelly on top, trying to get it to reach out to the four corners of the bread. For my sandwich it had to be done with white bread, nothing else. Because it was always consistent in taste and texture, I knew what to expect and that brought me comfort. Whether I had it for lunch or dinner, I would still get a feeling that everything would be okay for me. For a little kid you could not beat having that comforting feeling anytime you wanted; it would well up inside of me at my first bite. And this included keeping the crusts on the bread slices, since I had a friend who had to have the crusts cut off before eating his sandwich.      A FUNNY THING ABOUT PEANUT BUTTER and jelly sandwiches; it could be years between having one and the sandwich would still pack the same emotions. I experience it every time; we’re talking a lot of years. Now I know there are some people who cannot eat the same thing two days in a row and I get it. They like thinking of something new to eat or satisfy a craving or even just want to play with ingredients in their kitchen to see what they can create. When they do stuff like that I do not believe they build a history with the food dish. Sure, they love it and it tastes good; but then they move on to something else the next time and maybe, down the road, they revisit that dish another time. That is all well and good, but I feel it is not the same thing as being able to eat something that elicits long held memories. There are no surprises involved, no figuring out things; everything falls into a familiar place. Personally, I love when that happens and maybe that is the reason why this decades long franchise continues to work; one knows what to expect when they walk into the theater to see this dramatic sports movie.      IT WAS NOT ENOUGH FOR ADONIS JOHNSON, played by Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther, Fantastic Four), to reach the pinnacle of the boxing world. When the son of the man who killed his father entered the ring, it was about revenge and protecting his father’s name. With Sylvester Stallone (Escape Plan, Get Carter) as Rocky Balboa, Tessa Thompson (Dear White People, Annihilation) as Bianca, newcomer Florian Munteanu as Viktor Drago and Dolph Lundgren (Universal Solider, The Punisher) as Ivan Drago; this movie did everything I expected it to do. Michael did just as good of a job here as he did in the first film. Who I thought shined even brighter was Tessa and Sylvester in their roles. It seemed as if Rocky grew into this role; I could feel the weight of his world resting on his shoulders and got a sense of his mortality. Tessa’s singing and acting were the perfect touch to the drama coming across the screen. The premise for this story was little different from the ones previously. There was a good guy and bad one, unexpected home issues and parent issues; pretty much all the same but I did not mind. This franchise still delivers a good punch (I apologize for the pun). It is like eating a PB&J; I knew what to expect and got it with little effort on my part.

 

3 ¼ stars       

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Flash Movie Review: Chuck

“YOU should write a book about it,” is a comment that has been directed to me numerous times. The reason has less to do with my writing ability and more with the incredible to outrageous stories I have been involved in or told. I will avoid using pronouns to protect the individuals. There was one person I was involved with whose family history played out like an evening soap opera, television show. One family member was going to be elected to a high political position until their views deviated from the people in power. The person I knew was sent out of the country to avoid any fallout, but to also get a better education. Spending many years traveling the world instead of coming back home, they told me about some of their experiences in foreign lands that I have not even seen done in a movie. One of these stories involved a stalker and a secret intelligence agency; that is all I can say about this individual.     RECENTLY I was involved with someone who had a story to tell me every time we got together. One of the stories was accompanied with photographs; however, they could only show me a select few because they were brought in to oversee a secret government operation. The first photo they showed me was of them standing in front of a posted sign out in the jungle. I immediately knew why they had to be secretive about their whereabouts. Another photo showed how they were transported to this secret location; essentially it was a cargo bay with portable toilets and folding chairs nailed to the floor. It was so not part of my little corner of the world that I did not even know how to respond to any of it. I could go on with so many other encounters I have had that I could actually fill up a whole book. However if I do that then I cannot tell you whether it was worth seeing this biographical drama about a man who was the real boxer behind the famous film character Rocky Balboa.     KNOWN as the “Bleeder of Bayonne” boxer Chuck Wepner, played by Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, Ray Donovan-TV), was a hometown hero even before there was a movie called Rocky. With Elizabeth Moss (The One I Love, Mad Men-TV) as Phyliss, Naomi Watts (St. Vincent, Diana) as Linda, Jim Gaffigan (17 Again, It’s Kind of a Funny Story) as John and Ron Perlman (Poker Night, Hellboy franchise) as Al Braverman; I had never heard about this boxer. Everyone in the cast did a wonderful job of acting. Liev however stood out for me because he was so good in his role, but be prepared there was a lot of blood shown. Not being a big fan of boxing, I was glad that the actual act was secondary to the story. As for the story it was engaging with surprise. The sets, costumes and dialog captured the era; it was interesting to watch the arc of Chuck’s story line. If I had to choose one particular thing that increased my interest in this film it would have to be the connection to Sylvester Stallone and the Rocky movie. I think it helped that this was included into the script because it produced deeper emotional intensity to the story. There are so many people in the world that need to have their story told; I was satisfied that this one came to the big screen.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Expendables 3

The elderly couple swirled around the dance floor as the bottom of the woman’s dress trailed behind her like a settling morning mist. They dipped, spun and veered from side to side in synch to the beat of the music calling out to them from the tall black speakers that stood like sentries around the dance floor. There was an elegant grace to their movements that did not betray their actual ages. Speaking with them after the dance I discovered they were in their upper 70s and had been dancing together since their wedding day over 50 years ago. When I complimented them on their beautiful movements they thanked me, telling me I should have seen them when they were younger. The couple took turns explaining their moves that involved lifts, fast spins and quick footwork in unison across an entire dance floor. Due to their ages they could no longer do such things and be graceful about it or at least without throwing out either of their backs and falling to the ground. Here was a couple who did not look their age but knew their body’s limitations as it aged; I admired their practicality and honest spirit.    AGING gracefully was not an option in the latest for this movie franchise. As the third installment this action film treaded on familiar ground. Sylvester Stallone (Grudge Match, Bullet to the Head) returned as Barney Ross, the head of an elite covert fighting force. After a mission had failed, Barney decided it was time to form a team of younger players who would have to go up against the man who brought Barney’s original team down; revenge had no age limit. Along with the cast from the previous films; this movie had Harrison Ford (Ender’s Game, Cowboys & Aliens) as Drummer, Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In, Desperado) as Galgo and Wesley Snipes (Blade franchise, Demolition Man) as Doc. I can just hear you wondering what happened to the younger team members. They were in this adventure thriller; I just wondered if they were happy about it. This could have been a fun somewhat campy film, especially with its great opening scene, if the script had been better. Unfortunately the story was poorly executed. The only older actor that looked like he did some of his own stunts was Jason Statham (Snatch, Homefront) as Lee Christmas. I think the most physical thing Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Last Stand, The Terminator franchise) as Trench did was walk across a hallway. There was violence and blood as a multitude of stunt doubles did the physical work. I am afraid this third film was aged and tired; it needed to be retired.

 

1 3/4 stars

Razzie Award Predictions

This past Oscar season I have discovered new things about myself. From the nearby couple who kept talking during the movie I learned restraint; instead of asking them to look around and notice they are not sitting at home in their living room, I quietly whispered the “shhh” sound. During a particularly tedious film I realized I could do several yoga poses if I lifted up the armrests of my seat. Due to my keen observations I figured out to never sit near anyone who is carrying a large bag, purse or backpack; they inevitably have food in them, from candy to full size meals and cannot help but make munching, slurping or crunching noises. There is one other thing I learned and that is realizing how strong my determination can be. No matter how awful the film, I refused to nap or get up and walk out of the theater. As a result I have seen a whole bunch of movies I would normally never bother seeing. So I am going to try something new here and predict the Golden Raspberry Awards, also known as the Razzies. These awards for the worst performances and picture were started in 1980 by the American copywriter and publicist J.B. Wilson. If nothing else consider this my little gift to you in the form of a cheat sheet on what to avoid, thereby saving  yourself time and money. Without further ado please find below the winners for the worst of last year.

Worst Actor: Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger

This was close since Johnny was up against Sylvester Stallone who was nominated worst actor in three different movies. I chose Johnny because he coasted through this role, bringing nothing of value. Sylvester was simply trying not to act his age in boring movies.

Worst Actress: Halle Berry in The Call and Movie 43

With Naomi Watts being nominated for Diana and Movie 43, this could easily go her way. Both women were awful in their films. I did not see nominee Lindsay Lohan in The Canyons.

Worst Supporting Actor: Chris Brown in Battle of the Year

A pathetic performance for a silly film.

Worst Supporting Actress: Kim Kardashian in Tyler Perry’s Temptation

All my classes know not to mention the “K” word; not one family member’s name shall ever be uttered during class. So it kills me that Kim gets the award.

Worst Picture: Movie 43

I was torn here between this film and The Lone Ranger. Both would be suitable for worst film of the year; however, I went with Movie 43 because I found it offensive. The Lone Ranger was simply dumb.

May you avoid these lame movies unless you have a white elephant movie party, where everyone sits around and makes fun of the film.

Flash Movie Review: Grudge Match

Early on in my teaching years I became aware I was not only the instructor but the student. The members who attended my classes were not aware they were presenting me with a life changing gift. They showed me that age was only a number. Prior to teaching fitness I did not have an example of an older individual who continued to be active, either in a professional or physical capacity. In my classes I would see people in their 70’s and 80’s keeping up with strength training and aerobic activities. My most profound experience was watching a wheelchair bound member, who after a few months, got up out of their seat in one of my yoga classes. It changed my whole outlook about growing up and growing old. Since that time I am all for people who do not let their age stop them from being active and utilizing their skills. So this brings us to today’s review of this comedy film. The story was about 2 former boxers Henry ‘Razor’ Sharp and Billy ‘The Kid’ McDonnen, played by Sylvester Stallone (Escape Plan, Rocky franchise) and Robert De Niro (Casino, The Family). It has been 30 years since the 2 bitter rivals last boxed but sports agent Dante Slate Jr., played by Kevin Hart (Think Like a Man, This is the End), was determined to get the two men into a ring to decide who was the better champion. Okay, I do not have any issue with the concept of this sport film. Heck, I just saw a news report about a 90 year old runner who still does marathons. Recently I read comments that Sylvester felt he still had something to say about boxing and that is why he did this movie. If he felt he had something to contribute who am I to judge? I cannot recall the last time I felt embarrassed from watching a film out at the theater. The generic script was so lame that it was cringe worthy. Maybe I am being judgmental here but for the life of me, I cannot come up with any reason why Robert De Niro would do such a film except for the paycheck. Even as I am typing this I am experiencing deja vu of feeling icky when I was at the theater. The only bright spots for me were seeing Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential, Cellular) playing ex-girlfriend Sally and Alan Arkin (Get Smart, Edward Scissorhands) playing former trainer Louis ‘Lightning’ Conlon. As for Kevin Hart, this is the 3rd or 4th film I have seen with him and it seems as if he is just repeating the same character in each one. I am afraid I have seen better winners in my fitness classes. There were several brief scenes where blood was shown.

 

1 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Homefront

I can remember every single fight I was involved in when growing up. Out of all of them there was only one time where I threw the punch first and that was because the boy had been picking on me for weeks. I am not a violent person; in fact, I was never taught how to defend myself. A friend’s older brother had to show me how to correctly make a fist with my hand. I used to wonder where the aggressive kids learned how to fight and torment other students like me. It was during the parent/teacher conference nights where an answer could be found. I was not old enough to understand the reasons, only remembering how I felt when seeing the parents of a bully. More times than not the parents would frighten me. I could not explain it, but saw how they treated their spouse and child. Among my friends and family I never saw an adult act like that to someone else. In this action thriller, you will see what happens when parents get involved. Jason Statham (The Bank Job, Snatch) played Phil Broker, a former drug enforcement administration agent. After his wife’s death, Phil decided to settle in a small town to raise his young daughter Maddy, played by Izabela Vidovic (Help for the Holidays-TV movie, Raising Hope-TV). With the residents already suspicious of out-of-towners, it appeared Phil and Maddy may have settled into the wrong town. When Jason Statham stars in a movie, one already knows what to expect. There were many fight scenes that showed off Jason’s battling skills. One thing I was grateful for was Sylvester Stallone (Rocky franchise, Rhinestone) not starring in this film since he wrote the screenplay. It seems as if the screenplay was sitting on his shelf for years and Sylvester felt he was now too old for the role. This leads to my next point which concerned the script; it was simple and straight forward. There were few surprises since it was easy to figure out what was going to happen in almost every scene. I did enjoy seeing James Franco (This is the End, 127 Hours) and Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush, 21) play darker roles as brother and sister Morgan “Gator” Bodine and Cassie Bodine Klum. Though this crime film did not offer anything new, I was grateful at the end for not growing up being an aggressive kid. There were multiple scenes with violence and blood.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Escape Plan

I hope when the time comes I will be honest with myself and realize I need to step back. Having been a group fitness, yoga and cycle instructor for many years; I can see how my intensity levels have diminished with age. There is no way I can match the energy of a 20 year old instructor; it is just a fact of life. One thing that has not dulled through the years has been my passion. I feel such joy when I see participants enjoying themselves; whether from a sense of personal accomplishment or laughing at something I mentioned, there is a bond that forms between all of us. As the members and I grow older, we will adjust to the reality of it. I have told my classes that one of my goals in teaching fitness has always been that all of us can still get out of a chair by ourselves when we are 90 years old. The acceptance of aging is something I feel the main stars in this action thriller may need to address sooner than later. Sylvester Stallone (Bullet to the Head, The Expendables franchise) played Ray Breslin, an expert in prison designs. Due to a double cross, Ray found himself locked up in an unknown maximum security facility that was based on one of his designs. If he wanted to get out alive he would not only have to rely on everything he had learned from breaking out of prisons, but on the help of fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Last Stand, True Lies). The main attraction of this movie was seeing the two former action heroes starring in a film together for the first time. Both actors stayed with what worked for them in the past; Sylvester delivered his grumbled lines with his sarcastic sneer while Arnold brought his brawn and comedic lines. It was obvious these two actors were trying to recapture their glory days and I did not have a problem with it. However, with that being the case; I was annoyed with the poor editing job throughout this movie. The illusion of being an action star failed due to seeing the stunt doubles in many of the scenes. The only performance I enjoyed was from Jim Caviezel (The Thin Red Line, Person of Interest-TV) as Warden Hobbes. With older actors trying to retain their youth, an odd script and a poor ending; there was nothing very satisfying in this film except that the good guys win and the bad guys lose. An observation, the audience was 95% male. There were a couple of scenes that had blood in them.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Bullet to the Head

At this stage of my life there a few things I would like to give back and a few items I wish I could get again. It would be nice to have the thick head of hair I once had when I was younger. Back then I did not have to worry about raindrops sliding off my scalp and into my eyes. I wish I could give back the annoying brief dizziness I get when I stand up too fast from a reclined position. I understand these things are part of the territory when one ages; so truthfully, I do not give much thought to it. My philosophy is these age related things are infinitely better than the possible alternatives. I cannot understand people who are obsessed with youthfulness by altering their bodies to almost unrecognizable states. That is one of the reasons I had a hard time watching this crime thriller. Sylvester Stallone (The Expendables franchise, Cop Land) did not look human to me. Playing hit man James Bonomo, I found the role to be a narcissistic vehicle for Sylvester. There was the obligatory scene of Sylvester wearing boxers, so movie goers could gaze upon his chiseled body. The story had Sylvester’s character teaming up with detective Taylor Kwon, played by Sung Kang (Ninja Assassin, Fast & Furious franchise), when each of their partners were killed. The deaths lead the two men to a citywide, deadly scheme of corruption fronted by dirty businessman Robert Nkomo Morel, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Killer Elite, Lost-TV). Except for the tight fight scenes, I found this to be a lazy movie. The script was uninspired, offering several tepid catch phrases. There was nothing new in the movie, leaving me bored. As far as I was concerned, I thought Sylvester should embrace his age and look for roles that would be more appropriate for him. By the end of the film; I felt as if a gun had been pointed to my head, forcing me to sit through this poorly done movie.

 

1 2/3 stars

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