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Flash Movie Review: Skyscraper

NONE OF US HAD ANY IDEA we were playing a board game based on a famous person. All we cared about was that mouse. We loved building elaborate traps for the mice pieces, the wilder the better. Something about the game reminded me of a toy that was always on display in the toy section of this department store I used to go to when I was small. It was 5 metal balls hanging down from a boxed frame. When you swung out one of the balls on the end and released it, it would swing down and smack into the next ball. This would cause the ball on the opposite end to swing out even though the middle balls remained still. I was so fascinated with this toy that I would get lost into it and forget to look at any of the other toys in the department. This board game had a similar effect on me; I could play and replay the game over and over, hoping to make the mouse trap more sophisticated. The game was created or influenced by a man named Rube Goldberg. He was an American engineer, inventor and cartoonist.     WHAT RUBE GOLDBERG DID WAS create complicated contraptions to do simple tasks. One of his earliest ones was a machine that wipes a napkin across the mouth. With a series of pulleys, levers and switches among a variety of other items he would come up with these bizarre and crazy machines. Essentially, he was turning something easy into something complicated for our amusement. There has been a plethora of things inspired by Rube’s creations. I saw this massive art work at the contemporary art museum that was perpetually moving; watching a golf ball travel around this course, setting off a chain reaction of events that caused bells and whistles to play. It was fanciful and fun. There is something similar that was installed in one of the airplane terminals at Boston’s airport. Now do these things serve a purpose? In a practical sense no, not really; however, they provide us with entertainment. For example, it is simpler to put a kettle on the stove for a cup of tea. But how amusing would it be if you could do one simple act and watch a chain reaction of events take over to accomplish the same task? Is it silly? Yes, and it might even be a light distraction. If you want you can experience something like it by watching this action, crime drama.      WITH HIS FAMILY TRAPPED ON the upper floors of a burning skyscraper U.S. veteran Will Sawyer, played by Dwayne Johnson (Rampage, Central Intelligence), would have to find a way in to save them, despite being chased by the police who think he started the fire. With Neve Campbell (Scream franchise, House of Cards-TV) as Sarah Sawyer, Pablo Schreiber (Den of Thieves, 13 Hours) as Ben, Chin Han (Ghost in the Shell, The Dark Knight) as Zhao Long Ji and Noah Taylor (Almost Famous, Shine) as Mr. Pierce; this story played out like that mouse game. Though I usually enjoy Dwayne’s roles, this one seemed repetitive to the point I felt he was being typecast. The entire script seemed as if it were put together piecemeal; while Dwayne had to jump from one challenge to another. Boredom set in for me and for the last ½ of the film I sat in my seat wishing the writers would have given Neve more things to do; she was the bright spot in this disaster film. If the writers had asked me I would have told them to have Neve and Dwayne do more things together because as a team they would be more interesting. This was light entertainment that soon flamed out for me.

 

2 stars  

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Flash Movie Review: Leave No Trace

THERE COMES A TIME WHERE A child realizes their parent is only human. Some children reach this conclusion with hardly a notice while others discover it in a flurry of drama. There was a kid in my old neighborhood whose parents were born and raised in a different country. They spoke English with a heavy accent which I did not know kept them from socializing with the other families on the block. I rarely saw them for the years I lived there. Their son, I knew, felt embarrassed by them. Though I could understand his reasons why, I did not agree; English was not their first language, so who cared if they spoke with an accent? There was another family in the neighborhood where I remember the exact time their child realized their parents did not know everything; it was during a study session, where a small group of us were studying for class. When we got stuck trying to figure out one problem in our study guide my friend asked his parents. They came in and looked at what we were trying to solve. After a few minutes reading and re-reading the problem they told us they did not know. That was the moment we realized parents did not know everything.      WHERE I FELT THE SADDEST for a kid was when they had a parent who was not fully functioning in reality. During the middle grades there was a new student who had recently moved into the neighborhood. Come to find out it was their 13thmove in 9 years. The fact that they could keep up their studies while moving back and forth across the country was amazing to me. None of us believed the excuse given for all the moves; we could tell there was some embarrassment about it. Now there was a girl I knew whose mother had serious mental health issues. If this had happened presently I believe she could have received the proper care; but back then she was constantly going between her house and a mental health institute. Some of the kids would call it an “insane asylum.” I felt bad for her because sometimes her mother had to be removed from their house strapped down on a stretcher, with the ambulance lights piercing the night sky. All the neighbors knew what was going on without peeking out their front windows. I am sure it was not easy for anyone, especially when one needs their parent to act like a parent. This film festival winning drama brings a new definition to what is a parent and a home.      ALL THEIR NEEDS WERE BEING met as war veteran Will, played by Ben Foster (The Messenger, Hell of High Water), was raising his daughter Tom, played by Thomasin McKenzie (The Changeover, Shortland Street-TV), in the middle of a national park, that they called home. Written and directed by Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone, Stray Dog), this movie was exquisite. The story slowly rolled out allowing the actors to shine with the sparse script. Ben and Thomasin were beyond good; they brought realness and rawness to their characters, making them come alive. With Dana Millican (Lean on Pete, Portlandia-TV) as Jean and Jeff Kober (Sully, Sons of Anarchy-TV) as Mr. Walters, this was a film for adults. I absolutely enjoyed the experience which included the viewers at my showing. All were adults and not one of them looked at their cell phones the entire time the movie was playing. The filming was beautiful with the story being set in Portland, Oregon and I felt the director took full advantage of the surroundings to let the actors truly discover themselves. This picture was a magnificent way to show a relationship between a father and daughter.

 

4 stars          

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Guest

There was nothing they did that caused you to be alarmed. They were pleasant, engaged and most importantly attentive to your friend. Though the two of them had been dating for a few months, this was the first time you were meeting them. This was known as moving the relationship to the next stage, where it was time for the boyfriend/girlfriend to meet the best friend. Hoping to keep the get together as stress free as possible, it was decided that everyone would meet for lunch; nothing else was planned in case by some small chance there would be any kind of friction between the two. In spite of everything going well, there was something about them that set off a tiny alarm in your head. You could not explain it but you had a sense that something was not right about them. The tough part was deciding whether you should tell your friend about your feelings; it was a no win situation. Though there would be several more get togethers, you were always on guard; looking for something concrete you could casually bring up to your friend to see how they would react. You were smart enough to know when a friend was involved in a relationship it was your job to be supportive and not say anything unless something blatant was being done by the girlfriend/boyfriend.    HESITANT at first, the Peterson family quickly opened up their home to the stranger David, played by Dan Stevens (A Walk Among the Tombstones, Hilde), when he explained he and their deceased son had been friends in the military. With Laura and Spencer Peterson, played by Sheila Kelley (Matchstick Men, One Find Day) and Leland Orser (Independence Day, Taken franchise), insistent that David stay with them for a while, it was soon after he had settled in that a couple of accidental deaths occurred. This film was a surprise for me with it retro vibe and fun script. Dan Stevens was so good in the role; he easily commanded the viewers attention. Like those scary thrillers from a decade ago, the tension came more from the chase instead of the violence. Now granted there were a few violent scenes with blood, but they were almost minor compared to the buildup. Another aspect of the movie that i enjoyed was the script; it had a fun dose of cheesiness, yet made the characters real to the point where I was feeling concerned for them. In addition, just when you thought the story was going in one direction, it veered off in another direction. This sounds strange to say but I really had a fun time watching this film, despite my initial wariness. A few scenes had violence and blood in them.

 

3 stars

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