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Flash Movie Review: Wonder Wheel

WITHIN OUR DAILY LIVES there may be times where you experience something annoying. The stubbing of a toe, the occasional splinter or the dreaded paper cut; in the scheme of things I would consider these events irritating, nothing life threatening. For me getting stopped at a railroad crossing for a freight train or an ill informed employee waiting on me at a store are big irritants. I know I should not devote energy to negative feelings but it is hard to overcome years of acting this way. It used to be if something irritated me I would allow it to leech out into other feelings, being ticked off while walking around with a dark cloud over my head. I can still remember seeing other people experiencing something annoying and not letting it bother them; you might know, letting it roll off their back. Oh no, that used to not be an option for me.     THE REASON I AM mentioning this is because a friend of mine just told me about the type of week they recently had and I noticed something interesting. All within one week his refrigerator broke, the microwave oven he ordered was delivered in the wrong size, his dentist told him he would need a root canal, the home laptop computer crashed and he got stuck in his winter jacket when the zipper broke up by his neck. What I found interesting was his reaction to all of these things; he was only slightly annoyed, laughing off the jacket incident as comical. Separately I sort of can see where each of these things might not illicit s strong negative reaction since they all were completely out of his control. While he was telling me all of this I realized I was getting anxious and annoyed for him. What was that about?! Having multiple annoying occurrences evidently affects me even if they have nothing to do with me. I know it is a process that will take time, to learn about letting go of this “small stuff;” however, when it comes to this drama written and directed by Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine, Café Society) I simply am not capable yet of not being annoyed.     WITH MONEY BEING TIGHT and her son randomly starting fires all over the place it took Ginny, played by Kate Winslet (The Mountain Between Us, The Dressmaker), everything she had to keep things together. The surprise visit of her husband’s daughter Carolina, played by Juno Temple (Killer Joe, Maleficent), who was wanted by the mob could be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Including Jim Belushi (Red Heat, According to Jim-TV) as Humpty and Justin Timberlake (The Social Network, Runner Runner) as Mickey, I thought this was Jim’s best performances. His character seemed the most real to me; everyone else seemed more like a caricature. Visually I enjoyed this film with its story being set in Coney Island, but the script was so similar to other stories that I have seen in other movies. For me the story dragged at times and maybe her character was supposed to be irritating but I have to tell you I did not care for Kate’s role; she was annoying to me. Overall I felt this picture was stale; it did not offer anything new as far as I could see. Maybe tomorrow I will get a handle on not allowing myself to get irritated, but for right now this film annoyed me.

 

1 ¾ stars  

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Flash Movie Review: Cafe Society

The two had grown up in the same small city, got married and had adequate jobs. Upon first look their life together looked fine. Truthfully there was nothing wrong except their dreams and hopes eventually outgrew the city. Each of them wanted something more. They knew it was time to make a change; so they pared down their belongings and moved out of state to a large metropolitan city. Going from a quaint colonial style house to a 2 bedroom walk up apartment was an adjustment; but it was worth it because their new city could support their dreams. After finding jobs and settling into the rhythm of their new life they explored the city, started doing volunteer work and signed up for various meet up groups; all in the hopes of expanding their social network. As time went on one of them was earning some success at their job, advancing up the ladder as they say. The other did not have such luck and started to feel they were reaching a dead end. With all the expenses of living in a big city compared to their hometown, quitting a job was not in the cards just yet. The two maintained a strong supportive bond between each other, but their shared responsibilities started to go out of alignment. As the one was gaining financial success the other only had incremental raises. The financial divide kept growing to the point where a discussion ensued about remaining in the city. Where one was finally reaching some of their life’s goals, the other felt the city could not offer them what they needed to succeed. It was a conundrum.   HOPING to find success Bobby Dorfman, played by Jesse Eisenberg (The End of the Tour, Now You See Me franchise), left his home in the Bronx and moved out to Hollywood. It could not hurt having an uncle out there who was a famous agent. Written and directed by Woody Allen (Midnight in Manhattan, Magic in the Moonlight) this comedic romance had a spectacular look to it. The 1930s décor and style made this film a real treat to watch on the big screen. The perfect accompaniment to the visual aspect was the soundtrack; I thoroughly enjoyed the jazzy music. Starring along with Jesse was Steve Carell (The Big Short, Freeheld) as Phil Stern, Kristen Stewart (American Ultra, Still Alice) as Vonnie and Blake Lively (The Shallows, The Age of Adaline) as Veronica. Though I enjoyed all of them I have to say if they ever decide to do a film biography of Woody Allen then they need to cast Jesse. Using Woody’s words Jesse was perfectly cast in this film. There were parts in this movie where Woody was doing narrations and when the scene moved to Jesse talking it was almost identical in speech. The script was fun with some excellent lines in it, though I did find it somewhat predictable. For a Woody Allen comedy this was more like a light version. I felt there could have been more to mine in the story. It was great film to watch and listen to; I just wish it would have succeeded more in telling a good story.

 

2 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Irrational Man

There are just some days I want to do something crazy and out of character for me. Do you ever have one of those days where you would like to be someone else? I have mentioned to friends from time to time that it is hard being me some days. Usually I have been overwhelmed with a variety of things just before I get to the point of saying this to my friends. Maybe that is one of the reasons I like to take quick weekend trips by myself to different places; I get to be someone else for a brief moment. When I am strained for time and feel like I am going to go crazy, retail therapy has always been a good backup for me; though it is not always a good use of funds. I have been known to buy some small appliance or electronic device and leave it unopened on the floor for weeks or months before getting around to using it. Recently I have tried to modify my behavior and when I feel I am going to go on a shopping spree, I go to the grocery store instead to buy boxes of breakfast cereal. It is a cheaper and more useful purchase. Now I know on the scheme of things these actions may not be very rational but they make sense to me, for there are plenty examples around us of a whole lot of people acting quite irrationally. Some individuals can be down right scary in what they do, just watch what happens in this dramatic mystery.    EXCITEMENT was going through the small college on news of the hiring of philosophy professor Abe, played by Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line, The Master). The school got more than they bargained for once Abe was on staff. Written and directed by Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris, Sweet and Lowdown), I thought the cast which also included Emma Stone (Aloha, The Help) as Jill and Parker Posey (Party Girl, The House of Yes) as Rita was excellent. Sadly I found the script did not benefit these actors. At times there would be a scene that was intelligent and witty; but then it would be followed with a bland one where I felt the dialog was a series of blah, blah, blahs. If this makes any sense, the scenes were too wordy and only bogged down the story from moving forward. Woody has an interesting way of turning a sentence into a breath of fresh air; there have been previous films of his I have enjoyed. But with this picture I found myself becoming bored at times. If I were looking to find something irrational about this whole movie viewing experience I would have to say it was me paying full price to see this dull film.

 

1 3/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Magic in the Moonlight

Early exposure to the art of magic gives us permission to draw outside the lines. When we see something that defies logic it opens us up to accepting additional possibilities to a situation. Some people may say this directly affects our minds, while others will say it definitely stirs our hearts; either way magic certainly can influence us. I can remember my first exposure to magic (not taking into account peek-a-boo) happened when I was nearly 3 years old. There was a relative who would always grab my nose then show it to me sticking out from their closed fingers. I would inhale as much air as my little lungs could hold, to try and get back my nose. It wasn’t long before I realized by relative’s thumb and not my nose was poking out between his clenched fingers. There was another relative however who really performed magic or at least I thought so. Anytime he was visiting he would come up to me and ask me what was sticking out of my ear. I would rub my ear but never found anything. He would reach down, touch my ear then show me the quarter he pulled out before handing it to me. I would always check my ears afterward to see if I could find any money in them, but never did.    BELIEVE it or not magic played a central character in this dramatic comedy. Written and directed by Woody Allen (Sweet and Lowdown, Midnight in Paris), this romantic film was about a magician and a soothsayer. Colin Firth (The Railway Man, A Single Man) played Stanley, a man who pretended to be a Chinese magician. When not in costume Stanley was considered the expert in disproving psychics and fortune-tellers. Hearing news about a young, incredible soothsayer named Sophie, played by Emma Stone (Easy A, The Amazing Spider-Man franchise), Stanley set out to show the world she was a fake. Both the music and sets were beautiful in this movie that depicted a bygone era. I thought the acting was quite good, especially from Jackie Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook, Animal Kingdom) as Grace. There were 2 major issues I had with this picture. The first had to do with Colin and Emma; their characters did not come across as a believable couple. Yes they both acted well but I found the idea of them being in any type of relationship just odd. My other concern was the story itself. Though the concept was good, the execution came across a bit tired to me. It felt more like a rehash of Woody’s previous films. There were times I found this film dull. For a movie about magic, I really wished it would have magically taken me out of my theater seat and into its story.

 

2 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Fading Gigolo

There is a force that is more powerful than any drug; that can turn us into valiant, strong fighters and yet can also bring us down to our knees, wallowing in a puddle of our lost dreams. Love is the force that can make and turn us into so many different variations of ourself. There are some people who love to be in love, where the person they are with may not be the sole focus of their affection. I have seen couples like this, where one person is not motivated to do kind gestures from their heart; they have seen or read about it and are just copying it. An example would be surprising your significant other with tickets to, let us say, a play or sporting event. The fact that they do not know if the other person would like such things does not matter; they just know it is something one is supposed to do. Then there are some people who are driven by their love of something, like money or food. Love can make people do such a variety of things and you will be able to see it for yourself in this dramatic comedy. John Turturro (Barton Fink, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) wrote, directed and starred as florist Floravante in this film festival winning movie. Since he was having a hard time making ends meet, Floravante agreed to the plan concocted by his friend Murray, played by Woody Allen (To Rome with Love, Deconstructing Harry). Floravante would be a male escort for a select group of clients. He would discover everyone had their own definition of love. My first reaction to this movie was it felt like it was trying to be a Woody Allen film. There was the same vibe and look to it and even had Woody playing Woody. I did not find much else in common, finding the script to be odd and disconnected in parts. Sharon Stone (Casino, Total Recall) and Sofia Vergara (Machete Kills, Modern Family-TV) as Dr. Parker and Selma were not believable in the least. All I saw on the screen was Sharon and Sofia, not there characters. A nugget of interest was generated with the story line involving Liev Schreiber (Salt, Defiance) as Dovi and Vanessa Paradis (Heartbreaker, The Girl on the Bridge) as Avigal but it never evolved and I disliked what happened to them. There were scenes that were amusing and others that were dull, making an unevenness that led to boredom. I think i knew what John was trying to do in this film but I did not love it.

 

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Blue Jasmine

A life lived without an honest acknowledgement of one’s history is like living in a 3 walled house; eventually, the weight of reality will come crashing down. I know for I have seen it happen. When a person runs away from their life’s history, taking on a new identity, the facade never lasts long. There was someone I dated a long time ago that never talked about their childhood, parents, or even hobbies. It soon became apparent that my interests were becoming their interests. I saw how they were molding themselves to my way of living and found it unsettling. Essentially they were creating a life for themselves that was dependent on me. The problem they ran into was when there was an issue or crisis, they were ill equipped to handle it; they would implode. The relationship soon ended as I found out later they started a brand new, different life. In a powerful Oscar worthy performance Cate Blanchett (The Lord of the Rings franchise, The Aviator) played wealthy socialite Jasmine, a woman whose life crumbled apart upon the arrest of her crooked businessman husband Hal, played by Alec Baldwin (The Departed, It’s Complicated). With everything lost, Jasmine left New York for San Francisco to stay with her working class sister Ginger, played by Sally Hawkins (Made in Dagenham, Happy-Go-Lucky). Writer and director Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris, Match Point) has a knack for picking an ideal cast and letting them shine with their craft. Everyone in this drama was outstanding. Cate’s over the top brilliant performance was as perfect as it could be; she will be a front runner for the award races this year. I have never seen a poor performance from Sally and she was made to play Ginger. Besides the surprisingly excellent acting by Bobby Cannavale (Win Win, Parker) as Ginger’s boyfriend Chili; do not faint when I tell you comedian Andrew Dice Clay (Pretty in Pink, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane) as Ginger’s ex-husband Augie was living real in his role. I thought the switching of scenes from current to past events would be annoying; but instead, it gave them more intensity. There may not have been a lot of laughs but Woody’s script had a wonderful rhythm to it. This was a fascinating story about the lives people try to create for themselves.

 

3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts

In my yoga classes I mention how the right side of the body is our masculine, our sun side. The left side is our feminine, our lunar side. For some individuals one side may be more dominant than the other, it is just the way we are. I mention it simply as an awareness so when we do our poses, members can notice if one side is less challenged than the other. Part of yoga is finding balance within ourselves. My yoga teacher kept reminding us before we went into a pose to always start with the side that is more challenging. I, in turn, share this idea with my classes. In the scientific world there is the theory that the left side of the brain is skilled with numbers, logic and reasoning; the right side is proficient with colors, creativity and music. Through my life I have done some things that focused more on the right side of my brain like going to college originally to become a veterinarian. Then there were things I did that nourished the left side of my brain such as taking up the piano for 8 years. I have always been fascinated on how the mind works in highly creative people. In this documentary by Academy Award nominated director Scott Hicks (Shine, The Lucky One), the subject was composer Philip Glass. Scott spent over a year following Philip, taking the footage and breaking it down into twelve segments for this movie. Besides filming Philip collaborating with such artists as Martin Scorsese, Ravi Shankur and Woody Allen; we were privy to his home life with wife and kids. The segments I enjoyed the most were the ones that showed Philip working on his compositions, his creative process. Scenes showing life at home were okay for me, though a couple of them were quite poignant. Philip’s minimalistic style may not be pleasing for some individuals, but this biography focused more towards the creation of such music. I wished there had been more scenes devoted to Philip letting the right side of his brain flourish. As documentaries go, this one kept an even balance showing the daily life of a multifaceted music master.

 

3 stars — DVD

 

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