Friday, June 16, 2023

The Flash

My View: The Flash (2023)  PG-13  Barry Allen, aka The Flash (Ezra Miller), uses his super speed to change the past and bring back his mother from the dead. However, messing with the past can have massive effects, including creating a world without heroes. The Flash’s only hope: a retired Batman, another Barry, and an imprisoned Kryptonian. The Flash is an attempt to reboot the DC superhero franchise. Does it succeed? Yes and no. The film is helped by an outstanding performance by Ezra Miller, who plays Barry as a young man who desperately wants to be a superhero but also wants to, somehow, someway fix the mistakes of the past. Barry discovers that through a thing called Speed Force, he can go fast enough to travel back in time. The Flash isn’t the first DC movie to do this (Christopher Reeve’s Superman), but it’s the first to do something that impacts every part of the DC universe. Because of the Flash using Speed Force to change the past successfully, it affects the present, and that’s when things get messy. It’s not a secret that Michael Keaton gets to get back into the Batman costume, and I am happy to say that it’s not just a one-scene appearance, but Keaton’s Batman is a major cog in the film and how The Flash is going to right things in the universe. I liked the action sequences and the amount of humor in the movie, but the film goes on for too long and tries to explain everything in detail. Having been a fan of The CW’s The Flash TV series, I am very aware of the Speed Force ability of Flash and the consequences that it can create. There are some fantastic cameos, and I enjoyed a new take on Supergirl (played by Sasha Calle), but an ending that seemed too easy to defeat the bad guy let me down. The Flash has created a DC multiverse with a ton of possibilities to explore in the future. It will be interesting to see where DC films go from here and how much Ezra Miller’s the Flash will be involved with them. And yes, there is a post-credit scene that brings up more questions.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The Flash Website  Now playing in theaters nationwide.

Familyfaire: Elemental (2023)  PG  Ember (voiced by Leah Lewis) and Wade (voiced by Mamoudou Athie) live in a city where fire, water, land, and air residents work and play. Ember, a fire resident, and Wade, a water resident, aren’t meant to interact, but they start up a friendship, much to the dismay of their family and friends. Can fire and water really mix? Elemental may not be remembered for long, which is a pity, as its story of finding love in unexpected places is beautiful. Elemental is more a film for kids than adults, and they will love the brilliant animation and the unique world that it depicts. I love the two main characters. Ember wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and take over his store, but sometimes wishes she could do more. Wade is a good-hearted guy, a bit over-emotional, whose heart is huge, and who sees the best in everyone. The two star-crossed lovers learn that even though their worlds are so different, they can find common ground to explore together. I think the weak link in the film is that it isn’t as funny as I wanted it to be. Still, this is a beautiful tale worth seeing on the big screen. So go into a world where fire and water don’t mix…until they do.  There is a short film called Carl's Date, starring Carl (voiced by the late Ed Asner) and Dug the Dog from Up, before the feature film. It is a major disappointment, nowhere near past Academy Award-winning shorts that Pixar has made. It's basically a one joke story that tries to tug on your memories of that beautiful film and fails badly.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Elemental Website  Now playing in the theaters nationwide.

My View: The Blackening (2022) R  Seven black friends go away for a weekend only to find themselves trapped in a cabin and forced to play a game created by a killer who has a vendetta. Can the group use their street smarts and knowledge of horror movies to help them survive? Probably not. This film uses horror tropes and cliches about being Black in America, racism, and relationships for comedic effect. The game asks the group to answer questions. Some are trivia questions like ‘Name the five black actors who appeared on Friends.’ Other questions are more challenging and have dire consequences. The film uses films like Saw and any horror movie that takes place in the woods as fodder for the humor. The cast is fun and seems to have a good time making fun of horror films as they have to make choices that every horror film character has to make, like, should we stay together or split up? Should we go down to the basement? And what household items to use as protection (there is a nice callback on that one). The audience I saw it with had a blast and laughed throughout. I wanted a little more horror in the plot, but I still enjoyed the film, and the ending was a lot of fun.   My Rating; Bargain Matinee  The Blackening Website  Now playing in theatres nationwide.

My View: Extraction 2 (2023) R  After barely surviving his last mission, Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) has recovered enough to take on his next assignment. Tyler and his team are to extract a family from a Georgian gangster, who, along with his family, is in a maximum prison. This time the mission is personal, and it’s going to get messy. I wish Netflix had released this in theatres because some of the action sequences don’t belong on a small screen. The film starts where the last movie ended, with Tyler Rake victorious but on death’s door. He is soon rescued and is in isolated recovery (retirement?) when a new job is thrown his way and we are off. I find it interesting that the person offering the job is played by Idris Elba, which I think means that there are plans to make this more than just a sequel. There is an action sequence in the prison that has to be seen to be believed, with Chris Hemsworth’s character in hand-to-hand combat while on fire. Extraction 2 is not your ordinary action film because Rake is a character that not only takes a lot of punishment but is a character with a tortured past that makes him not care about his wellbeing, just completing the mission. We get to see more of what makes Tyler tick and how he bonds with his fellow soldiers, and who he rescues. The action is brutal, and the kill count must be in the hundreds. And if you think the action sequence is impressive in the prison (which is in the film’s first half), wait until the ending. So get to your big-screen TV, turn up the sound, and watch Tyler beat the crap out of a ton of bad guys. Will there be more Extraction films? I think you can count on a few more bad guys dying at the hands of Tyler in the future.   My Rating: Full Price   Extraction 2 Website  Now playing on the Netflix platform.

Indiefest: Past Lives (2023)  PG-13   Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) were two childhood sweethearts who had a special connection. Then Nora moved away with her family to America and the two lost contact with each other. Twenty years later, they are reunited one fateful week in Seoul as they confront notions of love and destiny. One minor problem, Nora is married. Past Lives is one of the best films of the year, a sure bet to be on my top ten list. Past Lives is a film about love and how relationships don’t always work out how they should. It’s a film about what if. Nora has changed from when she was a kid living in Korea. She and Hae Sung have grown in different worlds, affecting how they view themselves and their place in society.. I loved Nora is in a good marriage with a husband, Arthur (John Magaro), who supports and understands her. Filmmaker Celine Song doesn’t make Arthur the villain of the film. Instead, the villain is time. What makes this film work is the brilliant performances of the two leads. Greta Lee is perfect as the headstrong young woman who has made a life in a new world and is happy but still wonders what her life would have been if she had stayed in Korea. Teo Yoo is fantastic as the idealistic young man who clings to a relationship rooted in the past. Hae Sung has years of living in a different culture than Nora, one with varying expectations of relationships, and that’s his downfall. Past Lives explores love and relationships, both ones that work and those that are better left in the past, because love doesn’t always end like a fairytale.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Past Lives Website  Now playing in select theatres. 
Persian Lessons  (2020)   In 1942, Gilles (Nahuel Perez Biscayart) is among his fellow Jewish prisoners facing a Nazi firing squad. Gilles, through a bit of luck, is able to talk his way from death by claiming he isn’t Jewish but Persian. An officer named Koch (Lars Eidinger) in the prison camp wants to learn Farsi so that after the war, he can move to Tehran and open a restaurant with his brother. He enlists Gilles to teach him Farsi, telling him as long as he can teach him the language, Gilles will live. The only problem, Gilles doesn’t know Farsi and will have to make up a language to teach the German. This is one of those films that I liked a lot, but I didn’t love it. I enjoyed the cat-and-mouse game that the officer and Gilles played back and forth. Gilles constantly must change his plan to adapt to the officer’s demands, and Koch is, at first, looking for a slip-up that signals Gilles isn’t Persian. The two actors work well with each other, and they overcome some awkwardly handled moments in the film. It’s hard to make a film set in The Holocaust where the horror of the situation doesn’t overwhelm the film’s plot, and Persian Lessons does an admirable job of focusing on Gilles's story and his almost impossible quest to survive. Persian Lessons is a story of one man’s clever survival and an interesting one at that. However, the story overshadows that so many perished, and we see them, much like the Nazis did, as a continuous progression of people coming into the camp and leaving to die without knowing who they were. That being said, the film keeps the tension going as Gilles somehow, someway, stays alive for another day.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Persian Lessons Website  Now playing in select theatres. 

Forgotten Film: Sid & Nancy (1986) R  Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman) was on top of the world as a member of the punk rock groundbreaking band the Sex Pistols. He was all about breaking the rules, drugs, and having a good time. Sid then met an American groupie named Nancy (Chloe Webb), and his world changed. Sid & Nancy is a Romeo and Juliet story of two people who loved each other but were on a collision course with disaster. Gary Oldman burst on the scene with this film, and it’s a remarkable performance, giving us a personal look at a man who was a tortured soul who found love, but it wasn’t enough.   My Rating: Full Price  Sid & Nancy Info  The film is available on DVD and BlueRay.

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Blackening: Assistant Crafty

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Oppenheimer (2023) R The story of American scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) who, at the urging of a desperate U.S. government wanting to end WWII, developed the atomic bomb. The film is from Christopher Nolan (The Dark Night series, Interstellar (2014), Dunkirk (2017)) and boasts a cast that includes Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Gary Oldman, Florence Pugh, Rami Malek, and Olivia Thirlby. Many theatres will show this in 70mm, and it was shot entirely with IMAX cameras. Oppenheimer will be an event film not to be missed in theatres! Oppenheimer will be released nationwide on July 21, 2023.   Oppenheimer Website

Until Next Time!

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