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Flash Movie Review: Ready Player One

THE MAJORITY OF US AGREED that in principle social media sites offer people a positive benefit. All around the world individuals have the opportunity to experience and learn about pretty much anything. We were sitting around at dinnertime talking about the recent controversy with a particular social media site; it involved people’s personal information being mined by a consulting firm. It may say in the terms and conditions when one signs up online that our information can be shared, but how many of us actually read all the terms: I know I do not. If I understand correctly the depth of information that was shared by the internet site was startling. Someone at the table was saying the company can keep track of our mobile phone numbers being used since most people are posting comments and photos via their phones. When you think about it, it really does sound invasive. I still cannot get over how I can look at an item at a retail store’s website and the next time I go on my social media account there is an advertisement for the same item. Talk about living in an Orwellian time of Big Brother.     AS WE CONTINUED OUR CONVERSATION someone brought up how every good thing that gets created always has a downside due to dishonest people. I had to think about this for only a short time before I agreed. A lot of these internet sites were set up with good intentions but they all are being based on people being honest. I remember receiving a message from a stranger that wanted to connect; everything looked legitimate so I responded back to them. As soon as I did they sent a stream of shocking photos that I had to quickly delete then block the person. On the other hand I am sure there are a multitude of individuals online who believe they are alone, different or feel there is something better for them; who discover like minded individuals. This can have a powerful affect on a person. The reason I say this is because I believe that discovery is the catalyst for one’s imagination to open up and flourish. It all starts with a dream that can lead one to their new reality; just see how this works in this action adventure, science fiction film.     IN THE FUTURE EVERYONE TAPS into a virtual world where they can be whatever they want to be. However there were some individuals who saw an opportunity where they could take control of it all for their own gain. Directed by Steven Spielberg (The Color Purple, Catch Me if You Can) this movie starred Tye Sheridan (Mud, X-Men: Apocalypse) as Parzival/Wade Watts, Olivia Cooke (Thoroughbreds, The Quiet Ones) as Art3mis/Samantha, Ben Mendelsohn (Darkest Hour, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Sorrento and Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, Dunkirk) as Anorak/James Halliday. Right at the start this film grabbed me on its visuals. Both its real and virtual world had an assortment of treats; I especially enjoyed the way Spielberg inserted throwback references. The other thing that excited me was the action scenes; they were all well orchestrated with excellent special effects. Now for the bad news; I was somewhat underwhelmed with the story. I found the real world scenes more interesting. The virtual world after awhile seemed like I was watching a video game that I could not participate in it. There was an obvious message that the writers and director wanted to get across to the viewers; it seemed a bit preachy to me. By the end of the film I was not sure if I had just seen what our future could be and if it was going to be a good or bad thing.

 

2 ¾ stars

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Flash Movie Review: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

My version of scouting and the scouts has not been updated for many years. So please understand I mean no disrespect or ill will towards them. When I think of the scouts, images form in my mind of boys and girls helping elderly people across busy streets or carrying grocery bags out to shoppers’ cars. The other thing that comes to mind is scouts sitting around campfires that were started by rubbing two sticks together or a single scout tying intricate knots out of a piece of rope. During my childhood I was asked at one point if I would like to join the scouts and I remember replying no. There was something about their uniforms that creeped me out. I did not like the idea of everyone wearing the same outfit like a military unit. Now you would think that is odd for someone who loved playing with toy soldiers, but my soldiers were not only trained for combat but they had the ability to fly. Scouts to me just looked like an ordinary group that enjoyed camping which I never liked even as a small boy. The idea of sleeping on the ground in a bag in a tent used to gross me out. So you can imagine how digging a hole and covering up my waste products, whether it was true or not, would make me feel. Putting these memories aside, what remains are wholesome scenes of exploring forests, canoeing down streams and making s’mores. It is because of these thoughts I especially found the idea for this comedic horror film funny.    WITH their small town being taken over by zombies childhood friends and scout mates Ben, Carter and Augie; played by Tye Sheridan (Mud, The Tree of Life), Logan Miller (Deep Powder, I’m in the Band-TV) and newcomer Joey Morgan; would have to use what they learned in the scouts to defend their town. This film festival nominee appeared at first to be a fresh take on the zombie genre. I thought the actors played their roles perfectly to reflect the feelings and antics of teenage boys. There were a few scenes that produced a chuckle or smile in me; however, shortly into the film the story fell apart and became a cliched run of the mill zombie story. Sarah Dumont (Don Jon, Playing it Cool) was the female eye candy as Denise and David Koechner (Get Smart, Paul) played nerdy scout leader Rogers who had a secret; they were standard characters in my opinion. I really wished this movie would have taken more risks because I think it could have been fun to watch, though there wer several gross scenes filled with blood and violence. In addition, I understand the movie studio is testing a new formula by releasing this picture early for home viewing. Maybe they would be better off not resurrecting it. Lots of blood shown in this film and the R rated trailer.

 

2 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Mud

There were two extreme examples of love I saw when growing up. One was a married couple who lived in our apartment building. They bickered and argued almost every day; their voices sometimes reaching the decibels of a roaring jet engine. Though they fought constantly they still were affectionate to each other. The other example was Tony and Maria from the movie West Side Story. It was the scene in the gymnasium where all the lights dim except for a spotlight on each of them; as they see the other for the first time, from across a crowded gym floor. I preferred this example, believing it would happen to me when I fall in love. It took a long time before I experienced something close to that scene from the movie and I thought I would live happily ever after. We learn by example and sometimes those examples give mixed messages. This beautifully filmed drama showed different ways people were motivated by love. Part thriller and part coming of age tale; the story revolved around 14 year old friends Ellis, played by Tye Sheridan (The Tree of Life) and Neckbone, played by newcomer Jacob Lofland. Upon discovering a mysterious stranger living in a boat stuck up in a tree, the two boys agreed to help him reunite with the love of his life. Matthew McConaughey (The Paperboy, Magic Mike) played the stranger who called himself Mud and Reese Witherspoon (This Means War, Walk the Line) played his girlfriend Juniper. Matthew and Tye were the big standouts in this richly textured film. I was impressed with Matthew taking this edgy role and making it his own, similar to what he did in Killer Joe. Tye reminded me of a young Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), having that same type of face that easily expresses emotions. The supporting cast enriched this film. Sam Shepard (Safe House, The Right Stuff) was excellent as sharpshooter Tom Blankenship. I only wished the gifted Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, The Runaways) as Neckbone’s Uncle Galen had a bigger role. This Cannes Film Festival nominee told a multilayered story that was filled with diverse characters. The only commonality shared among the individuals was the effects of a shared or fading love.

 

3 1/2 stars

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