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Flash Movie Review: Venom

IN SOME CULTURES, THE TERM TWO-SPIRIT is used to describe individuals who participate in a traditional third-gender ceremonial role in some of their customs. Before I learned this definition, I used it in the same way I used Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to describe a person I perceived to be two-faced or moody. The person that comes to mind first when I think about this type of duality is a former boss of mine, when I worked in retail. To the shoppers that came into our store he was a charming, jovial gentleman. He would spend as much time as needed to make a sale, all the while complimenting more female customers than male. I did stock for the store, so was out in front numerous times to add product to the shelves. Without even looking at him I could tell what hand gestures he was using simply by the tone in his voice; it was this sickly-sweet drawl that went to a higher register. This is what I saw out front; but as soon as he walked into the back warehouse, he was a ranting mean man. It was nothing for him to call one of his employees stupid or dumb. If he did not like the way you were packing a box for shipment, he would yell and push you aside and ask someone else to take over. If only the people in the store could have seen him.      HE WAS ONLY ONE OUT OF a slew of people I have encountered in my life who showed two opposite sides to themselves. It is funny; since I believe we are born with both good and evil inside of us, you would think I would be immune to these contrasts in behavior. But you would be wrong because I feel humans have free choice to decide if they want to be good or bad. There are some individuals who thrive on negativity and have no issue displaying it, even if it comes out in a mean-spirited way. I do not have to look any further than my high school years. It was there that I can honestly say I saw some evil people. The entire time I was exposed to that craziness I kept wondering why those individuals chose to be that way, to be mean and hurtful. At the time I wasn’t aware abusers usually have been the victim to an abuser; not that it would have made anything better for me. What I would like to know is how people who have this good vs evil turmoil inside come to terms with it. This was one of the things I thought about as I sat and watched this action, science fiction film.      HIS LIFE GOING IN A DOWNWARD spiral Eddie Brock, played by Tom Hardy (Child 44, Mad Max: Fury Road), was willing to take a chance by sneaking into a top-secret laboratory. It was there he picked up something nasty. This horror movie also starred Michelle Williams (I Feel Pretty, The Greatest Showman) as Anne Weying, Riz Ahmed (Four Lions, Nightcrawler) as Carlton Drake, Jenny Slate (Gifted, Obvious Child) as Dr. Dora Skirth and Scott Haze (Midnight Special, Thank You for Your Service) as Security Chief Roland Treece. Not being familiar with this comic book character I had no idea what to expect from this story. Tom was excellent in the role, giving it his all; however, the script did not know whether to be a comedy, a horror or an action movie. It felt like the writers were trying to create something like Deadpool, but this was not done as well. I thought the story jumped around too much and I disliked the change of heart in one of the characters. Too bad the story and script were not more concise because the action scenes were exciting and some of the humor scored. How ironic to have a conflicted character playing in a conflicted story in a conflicted movie. There was an extra scene in the middle of the credits besides a trailer for a new animated Spider-Man movie.

 

2 stars   

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Flash Movie Review: Dunkirk

THOUGH I had made my way to the front I was nervous by the amount of people that were filling up the train station platform. I had not reached the start of the yellow warning strip at the edge of the platform, but one big surge or push could have detrimental results for someone. Something must have happened somewhere along the route to delay the train; the information board only listed a flashing “delay” notice for this particular train line. Everyone was being squeezed together. You could only hope the person behind you was not carrying any large packages that would dig into your back. On the plus side we were not waiting on one of the above ground stations out in the freezing cold. We were standing in a subway station underneath the downtown area.     AFTER what seemed an unbearable amount of time the information board listed the arrival time for the train. I knew it was going to be a challenge to get on the train, let alone get a seat. If the train was skipping stations to make up the delay the chance would be better the passenger cars were not packed. However if it was making its usual stops, by the time it reached my station, the cars could be overflowing with people. As the train finally pulled into the station I saw the cars were over half filled with passengers. I had a good chance based on where I was standing; but only if the doors of the car stopped close in front of me. Luck was with me, one of the train car’s doors stopped directly in front of me. The two people ahead of me quickly moved inside; I followed them and we manuveured to the middle of the car as best we could. The reason was the tightest fit always occurred by the doors and one would have to constantly adjust their place as people tried to exit or shove their way inside. One could not help feeling bad for the passengers who got left behind as they watched their train pull away from the station. I felt much worse for the soldiers in this dramatic action film based on true events.     MILITARY forces from Belgium, France and the British Empire were surrounded by the Nazis. The only way out was by sea, where they could easily be picked off by the enemy’s firepower. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight franchise, Interstellar) this historic war picture starred newcomer Fionn Whitehead as Tommy, Damien Bonnard (A Perfect Plan, Staying Vertical) as a French soldier, Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, The Other Boleyn Girl) as Mr. Dawson and Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn, Rabbit-Proof Fence) as the commander. This movie was not only beautifully filmed; it was enhanced with the incredible musical score that played a part in building up the tense scenes. The story was incredible and I felt Christopher kept it simple because honestly the event could speak for itself. With the placement of the cameras Christopher was able to maintain a deep emotional connection to the viewing audience. I saw this movie in an enhanced theater where the seats vibrated based on the sound intensity; it added more to my experience and level of enjoyment as I felt I was part of the scenes. This was such a well done picture and though my chances of dying on that train platform were slim, I could relate somewhat to the soldiers’ plight in this courageous story.

 

3 ½ stars

 

         

Flash Movie Review: The Revenant

The far reaching white expanse was marred by deep fissures that revealed touches of crystal blue running water. It almost looked like the ice had tears rolling down due to the frigid temperatures. The brightness reflecting off of all this ice made it difficult to shoot photos from my perch inside the helicopter. Once we landed on the ice I had the opportunity to take pictures but only if I left the warmth, comparatively speaking, from inside the chopper. As I stepped outside the still, frigid air settled on me like a bear hug. I felt my blood reversing course to go back and protect my internal organs, leaving my extremities to stiffen up from the cold. To take pictures I had to remove my gloves and I knew my fingers would quickly turn to rock solid stumps. The only way I cold function was to quickly snap multiple photos at a single time, alternating with the taking off and putting on of my bulky gloves. I grew up in a place that had 4 seasons, so I was used to the winter months; however here in Alaska, the cold seemed more intense. Maybe it was because there were no man made structures around just wide open spaces with the occasional rolled up snow drifts and broken ice chunks. Where I was visiting in Alaska there were no human inhabitants; I could not even imagine human life venturing to this area. Pristine and untouched, yet silently able to extinguish life with its icy breath it was all the more reason why I found this dramatic adventure film something special.    CLOSE to death from a bear attack Hugh Glass, played by Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception, The Departed), was determined to stay alive in the unforgiving cold frontier. He had a special reason to reunite with his expedition. Inspired by true events this thriller was a monumental production. Included in the cast was Tom Hardy (Legend, Mad Max: Fury Road) as John Fitzgerald, Will Poulter (We’re the Millers, The Maze Runner) as Bridger and Domhnall Gleeson (About Time, Ex Machina) as Captain Andrew Henry; everyone deserved extra credit for the contribution they made to this incredible film. Both the directing and cinematography were outstanding. I especially admired the camera angles that were used in the shooting of multiple scenes. Honestly I do not know how the cast and crew survived such a long film shoot in such an inhospitable locale. There were a few cringeworthy scenes that included blood; I found myself squirming in my seat. Set in the 1820s this was a raw yet beautiful picture; the original soundtrack was a perfect accompaniment. At one point I had to keep reminding myself that the film studio would not want to lose anyone to the brutal elements so there had to be some protection set up for everyone. I have to tell you watching this film was like a workout for me; bundled up in my seat staring and cringing in disbelief.

 

3 1/2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Legend

If memory serves me correctly there was an old movie I watched a long time ago that had one actress playing twins. One twin was boisterous while the other one was reserved. I remember I was curious how the film crew was able to capture the two characters in the same scene. As I grew older I found out there were several techniques the film studio used to create such an illusion. If one of the character’s face was away from the camera, the studio would use a stunt double. Other tricks used were split screens and filming the scene twice using one character for the first portion and the other for the second. With that last option the two characters never came together physically; it was a well orchestrated event where exactly each one had to navigate around the set. This brings to mind a television show from the 1960s called Bewitched. The lead actress had a dual role when she would play Samantha and then her mischievous cousin Serena. Now yesterday’s review talked about futuristic objects becoming real due to mankind’s technical advances. The same thing can be applied to the way movie studios can make CGI and real characters mingle together. Amazing strides have been made in this area. One recent film comes to mind where Arnold Schwarzenegger fought a younger version of himself. It was a fun trick, though the younger version did not look totally human. I have to say with today’s review what I saw being done was phenomenal.    RONALD and Reggie Kray, played by Tom Hardy (The Drop, Mad Max: Fury Road), were identical twins who wanted to establish the biggest crime empire in London during the 1960s. The brothers could not have been more different on how they would go about to achieve it. Based on a true story this film festival nominee was all about Tom Hardy. His acting skills were stellar in this crime thriller. The magic of him playing twin brothers on screen was something to see. Their interactions verbally and physically were seamless. It was a good thing because the script was lacking substance. For two such extreme characters I never got a sense of their drive; they just came off crazy. There were times I felt I was just watching the highlights of the twins’ lives. In addition I had a hard time understanding one of the brother’s speech due to (for me at least) his thick, mumbling accent. Despite that the story was still interesting to me, appreciating as well the acting from the other cast members such as Emily Browning (Sucker Punch, Pompeii) as Frances Shea and Colin Morgan (Testament of Youth, Merlin-TV) as Frank Shea. The sets and costumes were perfect for the period in this dramatic biography. If you can handle the violence and blood, it is worth seeing the technical achievements and Tom’s acting in this movie.

 

2 1/2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road

There are various reasons to chase someone and I think I have experienced most of them. I can remember as a small child the thrill of having a relative chase me around the house. Funny for their size and age it was surprising they did not catch me more times than they did back then. I understood this better when I started being asked by my younger relatives to try and catch them. Then there was the time I was riding my bicycle in the neighborhood and a neighbor’s dog ran after me when I passed in front of its house. I was huffing and puffing as I sped away, not sure if the dog was being friendly or protecting its territory. Another form of chasing is when you spot someone you know in a crowd and you try to catch up to them. Out of the different reasons for being chased the one that produces the most adrenaline is the one where you feel you are about to receive bodily damage if you are caught. In that split second when you realize the person or the group assembled in front of you wants to hurt you, your entire body springs into a hyper accelerated gear as you try to run away. All of your senses fine tune themselves to accept clues from your surroundings at a faster clip. The eyes continuously scan for clear paths; the ears listen beyond their usual range to keep track of your attackers and you feel your temperature rising to keep every muscle and fiber from tearing apart under the added exertion. An example of this can be found in this action adventure film.    WITH humanity broken and barely surviving on a spent planet two rebels dream about a better place. Such a dream could get them killed. Writer and director George Miller (The Witches of Eastwick, Happy Feet franchise) did not create a remake of his original Mad Max movies here; he produced a fierce, fiery adrenaline fueled science fiction fantasy that was utterly intense. Though I could barely understand some of the dialog, this film was meant to be a visual experience. Tom Hardy (Warrior, Child 44) and Charlize Theron (The Italian Job, Monster) as Max Rockatansky and Imperator Furiosa were awesome. I loved the female empowerment angle to the story. Honestly, you can say whatever you want about the story; it really doesn’t matter because this was a visual masterpiece. There was so much action during what was essentially one long continuous chase scene that I was just amazed with the retro feel to everything. I could not tell what was CGI or what were actual stunts; even the motor vehicles were like individual characters. This picture was one stripped down, raw, death defying road trip without a seat belt. There were scenes with blood and violence.

 

3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Child 44

Pride means you have a respect for yourself, a sense of happiness when you know you have done something good. There is another form of pride known as false pride. I find this version to be showy or more of a facade. The term “keep up appearances” comes to mind. Some years ago I taught aerobics in a small aerobic studio. The space had this old dark carpeting for the fitness floor and I had to stand on a makeshift wooden stage that was no more than 6 feet wide. We were situated above a clothing store on a busy commercial street. It was my job to be welcoming and upbeat even if there was no hot water or air conditioning. I could deal with stuff like that; however, I had a hard time working for someone who claimed to be a fitness professional but would use illegal drugs in their office. It was such a contradiction; all of the profits were going to their drug habit. I needed the job so I kept quiet, only coming in to teach my classes then leave quickly. After a while the situation began to weigh me further down; it was hard to put on this false front of a gung-ho, cheerful instructor knowing that there may not be enough money to cover my paycheck. Luckily I was able to find another job and resigned from the place. At least I was able to do it, but what about those individuals who have no choice?    THERE are no murderers in paradise; at least that was what people were led to believe during the 1950s in the Soviet Union. But after Leo Demidov, played by Tom Hardy (Inception, Lawless), had to read the death notice to his close friend about his son; Leo knew something was not right. This dramatic thriller had a stellar class that really made this picture. Along with Tom there was Noomi Rapace (The Drop, Prometheus) as Raisa Demidov, Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight franchise, Harry Potter franchise) as General Mikhail Nesterov and Joel Kinnaman (Run All Night, RoboCop) as Vasili. This film had an oppressive darkness hanging down on it thanks to the cinematography and sets. I enjoyed all of this so much which makes me sad to say the script was the weak link. The story was ponderous with a few slow passages. As I sat through this movie I felt like there were all these cool puzzle pieces but they were not all fitting together. It seemed to me that there were too many story lines which made this film longer than it needed to be. All I can say is this film had a good front but once you got into it you realized it was not as good as it looked. Brief scenes of violence and blood.

 

2 1/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Drop

It can be so hard to watch someone you care about do something that you feel is not in their best interests–or is just plain wrong. Short of restraining and locking them in their home, there is not a lot one can do to persuade them to at least rethink everything before acting upon it. A friend of mine had been in a loving relationship for a couple of years. Unfortunately it did not last and she was completely distraught over it. Within a short time she met someone new, dated briefly and before you knew it she was engaged to him. I was not only stunned with the suddenness; but from the things she told me, I could not understand why in the world she would even be with him. Get this; she was a late sleeper who loved to lounge in bed to mid-morning. She used to tell me how he would wake her up at 5 am because it was time to clean the house, according to him. I kid you not; I was flabbergasted and would always ask her why she did not tell him to go clean the house, just do not wake her up. Long story short, they stayed married for a few years until she could not stand it anymore and divorced him.    SOMETHING did not seem right to cousins Bob and Marv, played by Tom Hardy (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Dark Knight Rises) and James Gandolfini (Enough Said, Killing Them Softly), when the tavern they worked at was held up and robbed. In their small, closely tight neighborhood where everyone knew each other, their employer was not someone you would want to get angry at you. This crime drama was James Gandolfini’s last movie and he left on a high note; it was a memorable and solid performance. As for Tom Hardy, I was blown away by his acting; he was amazing and deserves an Oscar nomination. Along with Noomi Rapace (Prometheus, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo franchise) as Nadia, all the acting melded beautifully into the tense well written story. Based on his short story “Animal Rescue,” Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Bone) wrote the screenplay for this film. There were some memorable scenes that were perfectly directed. I was especially impressed the way the actors only needed a gesture or look to convey the heaviness that was bearing down on them. It truly enhanced the viewing experience for me. I may not have known the characters in this movie, but even I could tell something was not right and wished I had a way to tell them. There were a few scenes that showed blood and violence.

 

3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Locke

As I pulled up alongside the stopped vehicle, the driver’s head was slumped down as if he had passed out or was praying. When the traffic light turned green he lifted his head and draped the newspaper he was reading over the steering wheel and drove off. Now I love reading newspapers but even I would wait until I was in a less potentially dangerous environment before I would start reading something. My daily commute takes me through several neighborhoods where over the last few years I have seen some of the most incredulous things being done by drivers. There was the woman who was fixing her hair with a curling iron while driving with only one hand on the steering wheel. I remember passing by a car where the driver was shaving with an electric shaver. My favorite sighting was the man brushing his teeth while driving and rinsing out his mouth with a can of soda pop. When did the automobile become an extension of our house or office? I do not want to even think about a cousin who always drove around with a couple of empty, plastic water bottles in his car. It seems as if everyone is in a hurry these days, needing to be available around the clock. What could be so important that one could not wait until they were at the office or not driving their car? The answer lies in Tom Hardy’s (The Dark Knight Rises, Warriors) tour de force performance as Ivan Locke in this dramatic thriller. On an extended drive to London, Ivan would have to handle a variety of matters that needed his immediate attention. Writer and director Steven Knight (Closed Circuit, Dirty Pretty Things) had the perfect actor for this role that required him to spend the entire film in his car. I thought it would be a challenge to sit and watch this film festival nominated movie but Tom drew me in along with others such as Olivia Colman (Cuban Fury, The Iron Lady) as Bethan and Andrew Scott (Saving Private Ryan, Dead Bodies) as Donal. The way the story unfolded paralleled the miles covered by Ivan in his SUV, along with the changing camera angles that kept everything moving forward; all of it provided an interesting take on the scenes. I had read afterwards the vehicle had a gas gauge alarm that annoyed Tom while performing his scenes. The director kept filming, only eliminating the sound during editing. If anything it only made Tom’s acting even stronger. Now when I see someone talking while driving I imagine if they are experiencing any of the issues Ivan faced in this startling good film.

 

3 1/3 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Lawless

With a smoldering Brando vibe and a piercing, steely stare; make no mistake about it, this was Tom Hardy’s (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) picture. If he and his management team continue to make the right career choices like Warrior and avoid the wrong ones such as This Means War; Tom will be one of our top rated actors. He portrayed Forrest Bondurant, who with his brothers Howard, played by Jason Clarke (Death Race, Public Enemies) and Jack, played by Shia LaBeouf (Transformers franchise, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), ran a successful bootlegged liquor operation in Franklin County, Virginia during the depression. When corrupt special agent Charlie Rakes, played by Guy Pierce (The King’s Speech, Factory Girl), came into town; he rounded up the authorities to aid him in getting a cut of the brothers’ growing earnings. Where Tom played his character as a dark, simmering man with a deadly reputation; Guy’s character was an arrogant, mean, sadistic man who was fussy about keeping a pristine appearance. Both actors were amazing. Based on a true story, this was a graphic violent, bloody film; as we saw the brothers fight to maintain a hold on their operations. I, along with everyone else in the theater, sat absolutely still through the entire movie; the story never lagged. Both Tom and Guy were the major players on the screen. The issue I had with this otherwise great film was Shia LaBeouf. This boy could not handle the role given to him. It was so apparent when any of the other cast was in his scenes; he could not elevate himself to their level of acting. Despite Shia, this was one heck of an intense movie to view and I was serious when I said the entire audience sat still in their seats. None of us wanted to miss a single thing.

 

3 1/4 stars

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