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Flash Movie Review: Shock and Awe

IT IS SO INFURIATING TO ALWAYS be asked for advice that always gets dismissed. I just need to stop giving it when I am being asked, because it drives me crazy. A friend of mine will constantly ask me what I think or would do regarding an issue she is experiencing. Since she asked I am willing to help; not that I am some kind of oracle of truth who has the best advice. However, in those circumstances where I do have knowledge about the subject I will advise her. Time after time she will pick my brain to get as much information as possible before she goes and does the exact opposite of my suggestion. This is not bragging but a majority of the time my advice has been right on target. I know she hears me but from all those times she chose not to take my suggestions she wound up either losing money, wasting time or delaying her healing process. It really is maddening to see this stuff happen to her when it could have all been avoided. If she does not believe what I am saying, then what is the point of continually asking me?      THE IRONIC THING ABOUT THIS is we had a mutual friend who could never tell the truth. With anything he said the listener had to discount most of it. As an example, within a span of 3-4 months I heard him say he was a personal trainer, an accountant, a financial advisor, a banker and a chef. I know there were more but I no longer can remember, nor care about it. As I am writing this I just realized on the one hand I have a friend that doesn’t believe what I am saying and on the other there is another friend who never tells the truth. If memory serves me correctly, the friend who did not trust my advice used to accept the other friend’s stories a/k/a lies. What the heck was she thinking?!?! Truth is based on facts and reality; so, she must have been using a different reality if she was willing to believe the story telling friend. I guess this is an example of a person believing something is true, but not knowing if it indeed is true. Sadly, this is only one of many instances where I have seen someone willing to believe something without investigating the facts. I have an idea what the journalists must have been feeling in this dramatic biography based on true events.      HEARING A RUMOR ABOUT THE government wanting to invade a country journalists Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel, played by Woody Harrelson (Wilson, Solo: A Star Wars Story) and James Marsden (Hairspray, Enchanted), set out to find the facts to such a story. Every turn they made was met with disbelief. Set before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, this movie also starred Rob Reiner (The Wolf of Wall Street, All in the Family-TV) as John Walcott, Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman, The Fugitive) as Joe Galloway and Jessica Biel (Total Recall, The Illusionist) as Lisa Mayr. I so wished I had some knowledge about this story and the journalists from Knight Ridder newspapers; the story was made to play like a political thriller. Horribly, this movie lacked everything needed to tell a good story. I cannot put my finger on it but the script was dull; there was no excitement or thrills when there should have been. The acting was okay but if you look at the film Spotlight, this movie was a light version of this type of investigative story. Such a shame and waste of resources to produce this mess of a movie. Trust me you do not want to spend money on this picture. I would rather have seen a documentary about these 2 journalists and what they accomplished.

 

1 ½ stars    

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Flash Movie Review: Just Getting Started

LET ME SHARE WITH you several observations and I will let you be the judge. You are walking down the street and you see an elderly couple walking towards you, who are holding hands. While shopping at a store it is obvious the sales clerk helping you is wearing a toupee; it is easy to spot because it is almost black in color, but the real hair sticking out below is curly grey. At a wedding reception there is a guest who had several alcoholic drinks that caused them to be unsteady. The person kept knocking over glasses and centerpieces every time they stumbled into one of the tables that were around the ballroom. Hanging out with friends at a nightclub you spot a patron on the dance floor who is dancing wildly. Their movements are jerky and off the beat of the music blaring over the loudspeakers.     FROM THE EXAMPLES I just wrote about, how did you feel about each one? What was your first thought? In my more judgmental days I would tell you except for the elderly couple I found all the other examples embarrassing. In my earlier years I was extremely opinionated; though today I still have strong opinions, but I just do not force them on other people. Seeing the salesman with the toupee would make me wonder what was wrong with the guy not to notice that the toupee doesn’t even come close to looking like his real remaining hair; why draw attention to the one thing that you are trying to cover? Regarding the dancing at the nightclub, I would question what was wrong with the dancer that they could not hear the beat. But as I told you I was a judgmental person, so I would make these types of opinions. Luckily I came to the realization that my opinions do not matter; it is not about me. If these individuals are enjoying themselves who am I to say something about them. If the toupee wearing salesman feels better wearing his hair piece so be it; it has nothing to do with me. With that being said I have to tell you I could not wrap my brain around why the actors chose to be part of this comedic, action film.     HAVING SUCCESSFULLY SETTLED INTO his new identity managing a retirement community Duke, played by Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby, Last Knights), enjoyed being the person in charge and the center of attention. His center was about to be challenged by a new resident who came with his own set of skills that did not go unnoticed. With Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive, No Country for Old Men) as Leo, Rene Russo (The Thomas Crown Affair, Big Trouble) as Suzie, Glenne Headly (Mr. Holland’s Opus, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) as Margarite and Jane Seymour (Somewhere in Time, Live and Let Die) as Delilah; the cast was over qualified for the script. The story was not original which I normally could handle; however, the script was simplistic and not funny. These actors could have been fun to watch if they were provided with a better script. I was bored through most of the film and when I wasn’t I sat there wondering why the actors chose to be part of this picture. Tommy Lee was doing a character he had done before; Rene’s role was weak and Jane Seymour’s character was a stereotype that did not come with anything new. I will not say I was embarrassed for the cast; instead I felt sad that people would be spending money to see these actors in this film.

 

1 ½ stars

 

   

Flash Movie Review: Mechanic: Resurrection

Breakfast for many people is a quick grab and drink before facing the day. Some have coffee machines on a timer that brew the coffee just as the person is waking up. I have known a few individuals who barely function upon awakening. They have to sit for a while, maybe with a cup of coffee, before deciding on whether to eat something or wait until later. This is a foreign concept for me; as soon as I am awake I am heading to the kitchen to eat breakfast. The only time much thought would be put into a breakfast meal would be on the weekend, I imagine. I only say this because I do not work on the weekends except for teaching a class or two. Weekends are the only opportunity if I want to get together with friends or family over breakfast or brunch. For me breakfast during the week is a set routine of cereal and orange juice. I never think about the specific food items and while eating I am either reading or watching television. I know I have to eat but there are many times I am thinking about that day’s movie review. Before I know it my cereal bowl is empty and I have a few drops left of orange juice in the glass. You see I do not think about the texture, taste or the amount of cereal to be eaten; it more resembles a Pavlovian reaction. My eyes open from sleep so it is time to eat; it is simple as that. The reason I am mentioning this is because this sequel requires the same mindset: no thought.   RETIRED assassin Arthur Bishop, played by Jason Statham (The Expendables franchise, Spy), had a choice; do nothing and only one person would die or kill three hard to access individuals to save one particular person. He decided to change the odds. This action crime thriller had an interesting cast. Besides Jason there was Jessica Alba (Fantastic Four franchise, Valentine’s Day) as Gina, Tommy Lee Jones (Jason Bourne, The Family) as Max Adams, Michelle Yeoh (Babylon A.D.; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as Mei and Sam Hazeldine (The Raven, The Monuments Men) as Crain. On the plus side I enjoyed the different locations used for filming, such as Brazil and Australia. Those familiar with Jason’s style of acting in these type of roles will not be disappointed; the movie was pretty much watching Jason beating everyone up. I am afraid his acting was on autopilot. The script was predictable from beginning to end; the only thing that kept my interest was the elaborate assassination scenes. Truthfully there is nothing one needs to think about while viewing this film. You have the good guys and the bad guys and each are trying to kill the other. I had wished there would have been more scenes with Michelle and that Jessica had an even more physical role to the one she had here. With the script being so formulaic however there was little room to make this wish happen. If you are in the mood to just sit and watch explosions and people fighting then this would be your film.

 

1 ¾ stars        

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Jason Bourne

It was time; the house he grew up in was standing empty. He had moved up a level and now was part of the older generation within the family. His childhood home sat on a quiet street, though back then it was not the case. The house was home base for all of his friends to come over and hang out. With a jungle gym and swings, there was always something to do on a lazy summer day. But now as he walked up the front stairs there was only the echo of memories from his youth. Once inside the house he saw some of the same furnishings that were part of his childhood. There was the old wooden rocking chair where his mother would rock him to sleep in her lap. The paintings on the wall, which were used by him to create stories to amuse his parents, now hung crookedly as if they were exhausted from all the years they had been hanging up by only nails in the wall. Anything he wanted in the house he had already received from his parents while they were alive; he was there now to make the house presentable for sale. On each visit he focused on one room and today’s visit meant he was going to work in the attic. After passing through a series of dusty cobwebs he found the light switch to add extra light to the light coming in from the muted windows. It was just before lunchtime, while going through a pile of files; he found a document he had never seen in his entire life. It was a birth certificate for a male baby born on the same date of his birth, but the baby had a different name. He sat directly down on the floor, shocked by the document in his hands; he had a twin brother. News of this kind has a way of altering one’s perceptions about their life; look what it did to the main character in this action thriller.   AFTER being off the grid for so long CIA special agent Jason Bourne, played by Matt Damon (The Martian, The Departed), had to have a good reason to resurface and make his presence known. This sequel’s forte was the action scenes; they were fast and intense. With Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman, Lincoln) as CIA director Robert Dewey, Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, A Royal Affair) as Heather Lee and Vince Cassel (Black Swan, Irreversible) as the Asset; the acting from Tommy and Alicia stood out for me. Credit however has to be given to an older Matt for pulling off his character again after all this time. I thought the idea for the story was interesting and would have provided suspenseful entertainment. However, the script was not strong enough to support the story. The movie was more like a series of chase scenes broken up by a series of flashbacks. In addition, I found some scenes lacked enough information to make sense out of them. Though I did not remember details about the previous films I do not think it contributed to my feelings about this picture.

 

2 ¼ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Criminal

It suddenly appears from what seems to be its own volition and surprises you. Like an air bubble that has suddenly risen up to disturb the still surface of a pool of water, the thought bursts into your consciousness where you have to stop and wonder where it came from. I do not know about you but this happens to me on a consistent basis. I could be walking or driving along and suddenly some random thought pops into my head that at least has some type of connection to something in my life; but it can be so weird at times. There are things I can remember from when I was an infant; however, I could tell myself I have to do something as soon as I am done with what I am doing and as soon as I walk out of the room the thought goes poof, disappearing from my mind. The brain is both bizarre and miraculous at the same time. I have a friend who works in the medical field. You would not believe the things I hear that have to do with the brain; some of them would make good science fiction stories. To this day I remember watching a computer screen as the image of a patient’s brain, who had just suffered a stroke, began to appear. It was fascinating to watch as I could see where the blood was pooling inside of them. It was that experience and its aftermath that caused me to see the human brain in a different light. The same thing took place for me when I watched this crime drama.   WHEN agent Bill Pope, played by Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, The Proposal), was killed his boss Quaker Wells, played by Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight franchise, Paranoia), became desperate enough to see if the dead agent’s memories could be taken out of his head. This action film also starred Kevin Costner (Black or White, The Untouchables) as Jericho Stewart, Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman, Hope Springs) as Dr. Franks and Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious franchise, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) as Jill Pope. As you can see a well qualified cast was assembled for this picture. Though the basis of the script had a science fiction slant to it, I was willing to go along and believe the story. I enjoyed the way Kevin played his character and was a bit surprised to see him so intense in the action scenes, though it could easily have been a body double. But this is what annoyed me about this movie; if you want me to believe the story than follow through with it. When one character’s house with elaborate security was broken into, tell me how the house was broken into again later in the story. They didn’t change the pass code? C’mon, this among other issues ruined the story for me. Congratulations to the person who came up with the idea for this story, but then why make it predictable in a scatterbrained way?

 

1 ¾ stars  

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Homesman

It must be something in the blood or maybe DNA that pushes individuals to explore uncharted areas. I have met some of those people and they are fascinating folk. Listening to their exploits of climbing mountains, backpacking across states, camping and kayaking is somewhat foreign to me. I can climb the type of trail that ends at a gift shop with a restaurant and working restroom; but the idea of trekking through the wilderness and camping makes me shudder. Not that I want to be pampered and taken care of, but my idea of camping is staying at a motel where the sink is not in the same room as the commode and the only place to find a meal is at the fast food restaurant that shares the parking lot with the motel. I will say with all the means we have regarding electronic communications and GPS navigating, exploration is much different now compared to years ago. The idea of people willingly leaving their life behind to stake out new territory boggles my mind. The history books we had in school focused more on the big historical events; I had to imagine what life was really like for those people who traveled across uncharted lands to stake out a foreign place to make as their home. They were referred to as settlers.    HAVING settled in the territory west of Iowa Mary Bee Cuddy, played by Hilary Swank (Amelia, Million Dollar Baby), lived an uncommon life; she was an unmarried woman who did her own farming. When no one took up Reverend Alfred Dowd’s, played by John Lithgow (Interstellar, Love is Strange), request to transport three “not in their right mind” women back to Iowa, Mary agreed to do it. The trek would be dangerous for anyone, but to have a single woman do it was even tougher. This film festival nominee was a western drama in the true sense. The reason this drama worked was due to the story staying on a personal level. The characters such as Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Black franchise, Hope Springs) as George Briggs and James Spader (Lincoln, Boston Legal-TV) as Aloysius Duffy came off as real settlers trying to make their way through life in recently established areas. The acting was solid with extra credit going to Tommy Lee since he directed and helped write the screenplay. This movie grew on me the more I thought about it after leaving the theater. Without major battles or massive emotional outbursts for dramatic effect, the story simply showed a real slice of life for those individuals who were brave enough to start a new life in a new place. I not only admired the effort of the people who made this film but the characters that were portrayed in it.

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Family

I hope I never see a family member’s name in the news because of a crime they committed. There have been so many stories I have heard about other families’ problems that I have been grateful no one I know has made the news among my relatives. One of the craziest stories involved a member in one of my aerobic classes many years ago. This member with a quick wit always stood in the front row. With an excellent ear for rhythm he did every move perfectly. Since I always faced my classes it was easy for me to see how the female members were checking him out. Just before the holiday season he disappeared for a few weeks; members were coming up to me and asking if I knew what happened to him. All of us soon got our answer in the city’s newspapers: He was arrested and charged for the murder of his roommate. She was found stabbed in the trunk of her car that was left abandoned at the airport’s parking garage. Though this was a horrific story it reaffirmed my belief in never judging a book by its cover. This action comedy movie’s story was about Giovanni Manzoni, played by Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook, The Big Wedding) and his family who had to be sent into the witness protection program when he turned in evidence on his Mafia associates. Given the new identity of Fred Blake, Giovanni was sent with his wife Maggie and their two children Belle and Warren; played by Michelle Pfeiffer (Dark Shadows, Stardust), Dianna Agron (I Am Number Four, Glee-TV) and John D’Leo (The Wrestler, Wanderlust), to a small town in France. Under the watchful eye of special agent Robert Stansfield, played by Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln, Hope Springs); the family was instructed to blend in. However, it would not be an easy task for the Brooklyn mobster and his family to let go of their old habits. Sadly the witness protection program could not hide what was supposed to be the humorous elements I saw coming from a mile away. The acting from Robert and Michelle was not good; they simply reprised one of their old movie characters. Tommy Lee was underwhelming but it was due to the script; it was fractured into distinct segments that never came together to make a seamless story. This film tried to convince me it was an original crime caper comedy but I was not buying it. A couple of brief scenes had blood.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Emperor

The stranger standing ahead of me started yelling when he heard me tell the checker I picked Argo to win for best picture. He said the film was a total lie. I told him it was a movie not a documentary. In response to his claim that people would believe the movie’s story was true, I told him he did not have to worry; with people barely reading and writing these days, they would not remember the story. It was the perfect thing to say to him because he calmed down. As he walked away, the checker rolled her eyes. History lessons via movies are an acceptable form in my opinion. However, I understand the writers and director can take liberties with the story, to make it more compelling for the viewer. Like most things these days, one always needs a fact checker. From a historical standpoint, I found this movie’s story attractive. With Japan’s surrender ending WWII, the fate of the country would be determined by General Douglas MacArthur, played by Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln, In the Valley of Elah). As supreme commander of the occupying forces, General MacArthur would have to determine if Emperor Hirohito should be tried as a war criminal. The job of finding evidence against the Emperor became the responsibility of General Bonner Fellers, played by Matthew Fox (We Are Marshall, Lost-TV). His job was complicated by his determination in locating Aya Shimada, played by Eriko Hatsune (Norwegian Wood, Spiral), the Japanese exchange student he met back in college. The movie had too much to handle in the story department. If it would have focused either on General MacArthur or on General Fellers’ story, the movie would have been more interesting. I do not know why people have been saying this was Tommy Lee’s best performance since LIncoln because it was absolutely not. I found him to be one dimensional, though part of the fault falls on the poor script. The scenes that had to do with history kept my attention. As for the rest it left me cold.

2 1/4 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Lincoln

Like most young children, I wished I had superpowers. I wanted to fly 6 feet off the ground, skimming over the heads of people. As to why that particular height, I believe it was because I knew no one over 6 feet tall. Another power I wanted was to have the ability to time travel. The capacity to travel back to historical events and meet famous people has always fascinated me. After all these years my wish came true with this amazing movie. I was watching Abraham Lincoln not Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood, My Left Foot), the actor that portrayed Lincoln. His performance was more than outstanding; it was real, causing me to tear up every time he spoke. Daniel will be the one to beat in this year’s Oscar race. Sally Field (Forrest Gump, The Amazing Spider-Man) brought a deep understanding to her character as Mary Todd Lincoln. Honesty there was not a bad performance from any of the cast which included Tommy Lee Jones (Hope Springs, In the Valley of Elah) as Thaddeus Stevens and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) as Robert Lincoln. The story focused on the time surrounding the creation of the 13th amendment to the constitution, which would ban slavery. Tony Kushner (Angels in America, Munich) wrote the rich screenplay, allowing a majority of characters in the movie to have their own special moment. I appreciated the work involved in recreating the sets to exact details, having read director Steven Spielberg (War Horse, Saving Private Ryan), Daniel and Tony each visited the Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois for research. For example, Steven recorded the sound from Lincoln’s pocket watch and recreated the exact titles of books for the bookcases in the White House. The only fault I can say about the movie was several scenes seemed implausible to me. I felt they were manipulated to create a more heartwarming experience for the viewer. With that said, this movie was one of Steven Spielberg’s finest creations. When the lights came up in the movie theater, I could finally say I met Abraham Lincoln. I left my seat with a better understanding of our country’s history, feeling uplifted.  Brief scenes of blood and violence.

 

3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Hope Springs

Everything I tried did not eradicate the image searing in my brain of Meryl Streep in a compromising position. I am not a prude; but, I do not want to see the woman who portrayed Margaret Thatcher and Julia Child doing such a thing–it was just wrong! In this comedic drama, Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady, It’s Complicated) played Kay, a wife of 31 years to her husband Arnold, played by Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive, No Country for Old Men). Empty nesters who lost their intimacy, Kay and Arnold were drifting apart, acting more like roommates than a married couple. Burdened with sadness, a lonely Kay was determined to try and save the marriage by enrolling in Dr. Feld’s, played by Steve Carell (Dinner for Schmucks, Get Smart), intensive couples counseling program; with or without Arnold. This was a different type of role for Meryl, playing a more muted character than her recent characters. I thought Tommy Lee was quite good as a cantankerous curmudgeon, quite surprised to see him bring such vulnerability to the role. What sold this film was the stars’ acting, they were quite believable. Even though Steve Carell played totally straight in his role, I was continually waiting for him to do something humorous. The weaknesses in the movie came from the script and directing. Everything seemed to be stuck in a middle range of feelings, no dramatic highs or lows to make me care more about the characters. A stronger ending was needed; not the sudden way things ended without explanation. Based on the audience seated at the theater, it appears the film attracts an older crowd. I just wonder how they felt about some of the ways Meryl tried to improve her marriage.

 

2 1/2 stars

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