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Flash Movie Review: The French Dispatch

THERE ON PAGE 4 OF THE newspaper was my professor’s name. I was excited to see her name right below the title of the news article. She was a cool journalism teacher with a colorful vocabulary. Of course, I had to read what she wrote to see if she practiced what she preached. Her class was my first introduction into journalism; I had not made up my mind if I wanted to be a reporter or a novelist. The college I was attending was known as a “working” school of education. The professors worked in the field they taught. For example, my poetry professor was a famous poet with several published books of poetry. I remember seeing them all lined up on a shelf at a large, national chain bookstore. The journalism teacher was on staff at the newspaper. I still remember how she explained to us how to start writing an article; it was like an upside-down pyramid. The opening line should grab the readers attention, so hit the reader with the facts of the story, starting with the most dramatic one. She also was a stickler for spelling and punctuation, editing our news’ stories with a red inked fountain pen. Periodically, she would surprise us with a scenario she created, and we would have to write up an article as she timed us. It was obvious she loved her work.      THE OTHER IMPORTANT THING MY JOURNALISM teacher taught me was the importance of words, that words mattered. She taught us how to remove our feelings from our writing because a journalist’s job was to report the facts. We would have newspapers delivered to the classroom then go through them, dissecting the articles that were city, national or world news. The ones about culture, fashion and sports were rarely needed. Our teacher stressed upon us to choose our adjectives carefully. She would show us by reading an article as written then repeat it with the adjectives changed, to show us how it can change the reader’s perspective. The class truly was a master class in my opinion. And though it was one of my favorite classes my heart yearned more for the fictional verse. I loved creating a picture in people’s minds with my words. Now granted I may not utilize my fictional skills in my reviews, but I still watch what words I choose. Being a reporter is a noble job and I know it has taken a beating the past few years. Some of the blame honestly is justified. Seeing how the newspapers I read carry the same story but based on who owns the newspaper, there may be a different slant to the story. However, a reporter’s job is to report the news and that is why I was happy watching this inventive film.      AN AMERICAN NEWSPAPER WITH AN OFFICE in France is determined to report the stories. The reporters would go to any lengths to get the story. With Benicio Del Toro (No Sudden Move, A Perfect Day) as Moses Rosenthaler, Adrien Brody (Manhattan Night, The Pianist) as Julian Cadazio, Tilda Swinton (A Bigger Splash, I Am Love) as J.K.L. Berensen, Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color, Midnight in Paris) as Simone and Frances McDormand (Burn After Reading, Nomadland) as Lucinda Krementz; this dramatic comedy romance was a kaleidoscope of visual treats. The scenery and use of color kept me attentive to what was taking place in the scenes. The other aspect that grabbed my attention was the abundance of actors in the story. Though some were utilized more than others, I still enjoyed watching them. It did take me time to get into the movie. A quarter to a third way in things started to click for me. The story is a tribute to journalists, told in a fun and entertaining way. If you are a fan of Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Isle of Dogs) then you will enjoy this film; if you are not, I do not believe you will be as entertained.                                          

3 stars  

Flash Movie Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield

IF I HAD BEEN IN HER situation, I would have been the picture of gloom and doom. Her attitude was something that needed to be bottled and sold at a store for all of us who could not move on from “bad news.” An acquaintance of mine was a successful businesswoman. She had her own business with 8-10 employees. Her company turned a profit every year; nothing exorbitant, just small and steady. After several years, she met a man and started dating him. He was a “big” talker who had all these ideas to get rich quick. One of his ideas on making her company bigger was to buy a competitor and merge the companies. At first, she simply acknowledged his plans, telling him she would have to think about it. But as time went on and he kept providing her all these statistics on how to increase her business, she started to believe him. He promised he would look out for her as he submerged himself into the negotiations. She was falling in love with him and in turn, trusted him. During the process he updated her on the offers, telling her she would need a bigger staff to handle all the business they would be getting after the merger. You know where this story is going, don’t you? I won’t bore you with all the details; instead, I will get to the outcome. The companies merged and remained successful, except her boyfriend embezzled thousands of dollars to the point where the business failed, and she had to file bankruptcy.     IF THAT HAD BEEN ME, I would have become a wild man. She did everything she could to get the money back; but with limited resources and he had spent the money, she had to walk away from him and the business she had started years ago. She was sad about the loss of both her company and her boyfriend who turned out to be a swindler. I think it was a few weeks before her sadness began to turn to ambition and she started thinking about what she would like to do next. This is the reason I admired or maybe I should say, appreciated her gumption. If that had been me, I would have wallowed in the depths of sadness and depression for months and months. I know at some point I would have been in the throes of a massive rage that would nearly consume everything around me. Regarding the loss of her company, I do not know what things she had control over. I think I am paranoid enough to have scrutinized every document, invoice, bill and payment before approving anything. My lesson that I still need help learning is, I cannot control the things that are not in my control. The main character in this comedic drama is someone I could admire for not letting life’s challenges permanently weigh him down.      NO MATTER WHAT FATE FELL UPON him, each turn of events gave David Copperfield, played Dev Patel (Hotel Mumbai, The Wedding Guest), the ability to find a way to get his life in order and do what he was meant to do. With Hugh Laurie (Tomorrowland, House-TV) as Mr. Dick, Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Snowpiercer) as Betsey Trotwood, Gwendoline Christie (Star Wars franchise, Game of Thrones-TV) as Jane Murdstone, Peter Capaldi (World War Z, Doctor Who-TV) as Mr. Micawber and Aimee Kelly (The Duke, Wolfblood-TV) as Emily; this film festival winning modern take of the Charles Dickens’ classic was warm and charming. I thought Dev and Tilda were outstanding in their roles. The way the story was filmed provided more levity than I had expected; it was such an easy and enjoyable film to watch. If you are a Dickens fan, I feel you will want to see this picture even with its updated flavor on the story. Those not familiar with the story would still enjoy the fancifulness of the production and the positive message.                 

3 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Doctor Strange

THOUGH you may not realize it right away, you will receive a gift from the people you meet in your life. You see him sitting across from you, his hand fidgeting with the necklace caught in his shirt button. His voice is lyrical where the words coming out of his mouth sound as if they are building an incredible overture; it is enough for you to think about what the second act could be. You keep catching yourself staring at his eyes while his cheeks continuously swell into 2 ripe plums you want to squeeze. None of it makes sense because you do not know him except for a few emails and one phone conversation that dove below the surface beyond the standard questions about the weather and jobs. The gesture that sent a shiver through your body was the brush of his hand on you as he excused himself to the bathroom. From this point in time the walls around your heart, solidified by the hurt and pain of past relationships, started to spring leaks filled with emotions and feelings. You realized all that was before would not be the same ever again.    HOW about the woman who was rushing down the staircase, trying to catch a train to the city. On the way she bumped into a gentleman, unaware the packet sticking out of her bag caught on a fold of his coat and fell out. She missed the train as if the doors of the train car deliberately knew what they were doing. Standing there trying to catch her breath the gentleman tapped her on the shoulder, presenting her packet to her. She thanked him and was surprised the man referred to them as X-rays. It turns out he was a doctor and wound up through conversations and consultations to be the doctor that successfully cured her. You see, you just never know what you might gain from a stranger.    NEUROSURGEON Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Sherlock-TV), survived a horrific auto accident, but his hands did not. His ego would not let go; he was determined to go to the ends of the world to find someone who could restore the use of his hands. His journey led him to The Ancient One, played by Tilda Swinton (A Bigger Splash, Snowpiercer). Doctor Strange got something different than what he had expected. This action fantasy followed the Marvel formula though this adventure movie was such a visual trip I felt there was almost too much stimuli for me to grasp everything. With Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave, Secret in Their Eyes) as Mordo and Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt, Hannibal-TV) as Kaecilius, I enjoyed all the characters along with the humor sprinkled throughout the script. I felt the story took a long time during the introduction portion. Once the action finally happened I was a bit disappointed by it. Sure the scenes were visually intense but I felt the action and drama didn’t quite match it. My rating tonight will be heavily influenced by the special effects in this film. Oh and I understood I had to meet this character Doctor Strange because I am going to meet him again in a future Avengers film. There were two extra scenes in the middle and end of the credits.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: A Bigger Splash

The landscape of one’s life may be properly maintained, with a meticulous eye to detail to make everything look ideal. Each component made to fit together so no one would see a gap or break across the land. It pretty much has everyone fooled. The reason I say this is because if someone from your past, who parted not being in synch with your feelings, suddenly showed up in your life the blurred lines around you both could cause a ripple effect that tills the soil around your present life. I have seen this for myself and to be honest have experienced it too. There was a couple I knew where I was originally friends with one of them before they were in the relationship; so I knew much of their history. The two of them lived together and anyone who met them thought they made the perfect couple. However when a person my friend had lived with previously came back into their life, the foundation for the present relationship started to crumble. Maybe there had not been much communication or the expression of feelings before but it was obvious there still was a connection with their former lover. I remember being at a small dinner party where the past and present relationships were together and it was obvious there was a murky tension between all of them. It was a tough situation and in fact I may experience something similar in the near future because I have heard talk about someone from my past is planning a visit to come here and meet up with friends. And this trip would include the new person in their life. I know I do not want to experience any of the drama that I saw playing out in this dramatic movie.   ENJOYING a peaceful, quiet time off the coast of Italy rock star Marianne Lane and her boyfriend Paul De Smedt, played by Tilda Swinton (Trainwreck, Only Lovers Left Alive) and Matthias Schoenaerts (The Drop, Rust and Bone), suddenly had their trip disrupted by the appearance of record producer Harry Hawkes and his daughter Penelope Lannier, played by Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, Spectre) and Dakota Johnson (How to be Single, Fifty Shades of Grey). Their visit would stir up things that were better left alone. This film festival winner had some beautiful outdoor film shots; besides the acting it was a highlight for me. As for the cast I thought they all were wonderful and because of them I was able to still stay somewhat interested in what was otherwise a dysfunctional story. I thought the script was a mess; the story morphed from a drama to a mystery and changed the entire tone. A shame because I could not stay engaged with the characters despite the good acting. If the script had stuck with one story line I think it would have made for a better movie experience. The idea behind this story was something I could follow; I just wished it had been cleaner in its execution. Several scenes were spoken in Italian with English subtitles.

 

2 1/4 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Hail, Caesar!

The first time I saw them on a small screen I thought they looked unusual, almost bizarre. Every Saturday afternoon there was a television show that showed old movies. I did not understand the point of a movie musical the first time I saw one. Why actors were breaking out into songs in the middle of their scenes baffled me. It was not until I paid attention to the lyrics that I realized the songs were explaining parts of the story. These films along with the others that got broadcast came from a different time. The screwball comedies, dramatic romances and other genres had movie stars that were, to use a cliche, larger than life. I was familiar with those who had a prolific career, churning out a new movie every year. These actors gave off an almost regal persona; it appeared the film studios kept each of them up on a pedestal to be admired and revered. As far as I can recall there was never any controversy associated with those actors, unlike the current actors of today. It seems as if more times than not actors are just as famous for their offscreen activities as they are for their acting roles. This however brings up an interesting thought: are current actors more out of control then the ones from years past? It would seem easy to say yes but upon more thought, I do not think there is much difference between the different eras except for the way we get our news presently. This comedy sheds some light on what the movie studios used to do for their actors.    EDDIE Mannix, played by Josh Brolin (Everest, Sicario), had one mission and that was to keep things running smoothly for the film studio. With the actors they had under contract it was a 24 hour a day job. This dramatic comedy written and directed by Ethan and Joel Coen (Fargo, True Grit), was set in the 1950s when movie studios was churning out movies like an assembly line. The cast which included George Clooney (The Ides of March, Gravity) as Baird Whitlock, Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Only Lovers Left Alive) as Thora Thacker/Thessaly Thacker and Channing Tatum (Magic Mike franchise, Foxcatcher) as Burt Gurney were all representative of past celebrities. For example Channing’s character was similar to a past star like Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. With the variety of actors in this film, each had essentially their own story going on. Though things kept moving along I felt most scenes were only offering a brief glimpse of a story before it was time for the next actor’s turn. The movie came across as little skits pieced together. I found the story amusing but nothing that warranted any major investment. Don’t get me wrong, this picture was fun to watch; however, if one is not familiar with movies that came out from the old Hollywood era, they may not enjoy this film as much.

 

2 3/4 stars for fans of old movies       2 stars for fans unfamiliar with the Golden Age of Hollywood

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Trainwreck

It was not until after the movie had ended that I saw this family of four walking down the steps of the theater. The parents with their 2 children, who looked approximately six to nine years old, must have been sitting somewhere behind me. Normally I do not pay much attention to the people around me at the movies but in this case there was a reason. This happened last week when I saw that horror film about a high school’s theater department putting on a play that caused a death the last time it was played at the school. As I watched the family exiting the theater I wondered why they chose to bring their kids to this movie; were they preparing those children for the horrors of high school or did they want them to grow up and be accountants by showing them what will happen if they go into the arts. It never ceases to amaze me what people do these days. I just wanted to go up and ask the parents what they were thinking. Did they not realize their young children may by learning by example? I know when I was that age I would follow along with what people were doing; though I will say, there were times I saw someone doing something and I would do the exact opposite thing. At the time I did not realize what determined my choice on whether I copied a person’s actions or repelled from them. I believe the main character in this movie had issues and did not have the best of role models to choose from.    AMY, played by Amy Schumer (Inside Amy Schumer-TV), learned quite early that monogamy was a falacy; it was easier not to be committed to any one individual. However, not everyone thought the same way as Amy. This was my first exposure to this comedic force known as Amy Schumer. Besides starring in this comedy she was also credited for the writing of it and I have to tell you right away the language was pretty strong throughout this movie. With that being said, there were times I was laughing out loud in the theater besides tearing up a bit at other moments. Her timing was impeccable and along with fellow actors Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins, Saturday Night Live-TV) as Aaron Conners, Colin Quinn (Grown Ups franchise, Girls-TV) as Gordon and Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive, Snowpiercer) as Dianna; they all were strong with their characters. This was by no means a perfect film; there were some scenes that felt like a mini sitcom episode and a couple of easy to figure out parts. But with its combination of shock value, humor and LeBron James; I was fully committed to this wild story.

 

3 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

Once two people have a shared history of intimacy together, it will always reappear when one is in the presence of the other. They may have not seen each other in a long time; but as soon as they meet, that oasis of intimate vulnerability floats up from the recesses of their minds to create terra firma. A gentle puff of breath slipping across an ear can remind one how they were being held as they dove into a luxurious sleep. The scent of their hair can bring back the vision of a wide open vista of sun stained cliffs cascading into a deep canyon as both sat close, taking in the majesty of the moment. So knowledgeable of each other’s ways, the two created a world unto themselves that is separate from the reality around then. Two individuals who had this connection in this dramatic romantic film were Eve and Adam, played by Tilda Swinton (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Adaptation) and Tom Hiddleston (War Horse, Thor franchise). Aware of Adam’s despondent reclusiveness, Eve traveled from her home in Tangier, Morocco to be with him in Detroit, MIchigan. With the world around them in decline they had their own little safe haven until Eve’s sister Ava, played by Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre, The Kids are all Right), showed up at their front door. This film festival nominated movie grew on me like Spanish moss on a thick humid day. Tilda and Tom were so deliciously good together as the centuries old vampires. The whole cast was strong but I could not take my eyes off the two of them. They were able to convey a feeling, an emotion simply by the turn of the head or the gaze of their eyes. The script was smart and hip with quick spurts of fresh humor. Since some of the characters were vampires, the whole picture had a certain darkness to it; but, there was a subtle lightness that made for deep languishing scenes. I really enjoyed the way the director’s or maybe it was cinematographer’s penetrating use of light sources played with the blackness. Though this film was listed as horror, there was nothing I would consider scary in the traditional sense. If you are squeamish at the sight of blood, no matter the vessel it may be in, then yes there were scenes that had blood. However, I can only think of one scene that might be considered gory. Despite a bit of uneven pacing, by the end of the movie I felt I had visited an old couple who knew each other so well, they did not have to ask how the other one felt, they just knew. Brief scenes of blood were shown.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

It was a time where the words “please” and “thank you” were freely given in a sentence. Kind gestures were evident everywhere we went throughout the building. With passports in hand, a group of us went out of the country for a convention being held in a regal old hotel. Wide and majestic with its granite facade and elongated windows, the hotel had several flags waving above the doorway as if they were greeting every hotel guest. Inside the floor was fitted with a combination of huddled polished gold edged tiles that looked like reflective pools surrounded by the plush, deep red carpeting that swallowed up noises from everyone’s shoes. The lobby had an ample crystal chandelier that cast just enough light to make the room glow as if the sun was setting behind the woven tapestry that hung across the far western wall. For the duration of the convention no matter how loud or rowdy the guests became, the hotel staff never once judged or showed a disapproving face. It was when the Grand Budapest Hotel first appeared on the movie screen in this comedic drama that I recalled my memory of that trip. The difference between the two hotels was that mine sat in the heart of a large city and it did not have a murder occur within its walls. From writer and director Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom), this visually stimulating film grabbed me from the very beginning. No need to worry if visuals are not your cup of tea because the story had a creative zaniness that was elevated by the fine acting from the cast. Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, Skyfall) was outstanding as the famous hotel concierge Gustave H. Adrien Brody (The Pianist, Cadillac Records) as Dmitri, Willem Dafoe (Out of the Furnance, The Walker) as Jopling and relative newcomer Tony Revolori (The Perfect Game) as Zero Moustafa were only part of the wonderful cast that Wes assembled for this fun film. The story was a story within a story that was easy to follow. When a wealthy guest of the hotel was found murdered, the authorities believed Gustave H was to blame. What took place after were a series of screwball chases and plot twists that hearkened back to the madcap comedy movies made in the 1930s and 40s. Each scene had its own unique individualized detailing where I felt I was looking through a series of paintings. If you are not a fan of Wes Anderson, I think the cast could still win you over.  As far as I was concerned I was willing to book a room at the hotel in this film festival winner.

 

3 2/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: I Am Love

One of my favorite trips was going to Italy. Every block I walked felt as if I was traveling back in time; seeing statues and buildings I had only seen in history books. It was mind-blowing for me. I gained a new appreciation for fresh unprocessed food. Tomatoes’ sweet juice oozed down my cheek when I bit into them. The nightly dessert of gelato would evoke a deep sigh of contented pleasure as smooth chilled creaminess coated my tongue and teeth, leaving a memory that it once resided in my mouth. Oh, excuse me; let me get back on track to doing a movie review and not a descriptive list of everything I ate while visiting that great country. Right from the start I knew this dramatic film could not be bad. Set in Milan, there were gorgeous scenes of the city and countryside with a particular focus on the art of food presentation. A wealthy family came together to celebrate the birthday of the family’s patriarch. When granddaughter Elisabetta Recchi, played by Alba Rohrwacher (Come Undone, The Man Who Will Come), gave her grandfather an unexpected birthday gift, the viewer was given their first clue on the impending turmoil bubbling up just under the surface of the family’s calm proper veneer. Elisabetta’s mother Emma, played by Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Michael Clayton), could give up only so much after having left Russia to marry into the powerful Recchi family. This stylish beautiful movie unfolded like a high end soap opera, filled with passion and turmoil. Tilda was wonderful in the role and I admired her ability to speak fluent Italian and Russian for her character. Parts of the story seemed contrived to me; making several scenes easily predictable. However, the moody atmospheric filming of stunning Italy not only made me hungry for the outcome of the story; it made me aware of my desire to return to a pure and fresh way of living. Italian and Russian with English subtitles.

 

2 3/4 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

I’m not a parent but know I would be a “tough love” type of Dad. I do not understand those parents who let their children run wild in a store or restaurant. And don’t get me started on the ones that bring their underage kids to an R rated movie–I am talking like a 6 or 7 year old! But what do you do if it turns out you do not like your child? The Kevin in this movie would really test a parent’s love. This intense film was too much for me to watch all the way through; I had to take a break from it. Since birth it appeared Kevin and his mother Eva Khatchadourian, played by Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton, Adaptation) never got along. Or maybe they just did not like each other. Tilda was extraordinary in this challenging role. As the teenage Kevin, Ezra Miller (Another Happy Day, City  Island) not only looked like he was Eva/Tilda’s son, but his acting was just as remarkable. Playing the father Franklin, John C. Reilly (Cedar Rapids, The Promotion) was reduced to a minor character compared to the mother and son. I did not care for the direction, finding the use of flashbacks annoying. There were times I was trying to figure out why something was taking place. If you were to ask me if I enjoyed watching this movie, I would have to say no, not really. I wanted to see the acting since Ms Swinton was Oscar nominated. And yet, maybe this was a good film since it elicited a strong response in me. I have one other question I would like to ask: Should a parent be held responsible if their child grows up to be a sociopath?

 

3 stars — DVD

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