Salty Air

Flash should skip time travel; Lawrence should aim higher – Play It Again, Tim

The Flash
Written by Tim Miller

“The Flash” (PG-13, 144 minutes, in theaters) gives new meaning to the words “baby shower.”

During the film’s wild opening, Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), aka the Flash, is called into action by Batman’s butler, Alfred (Jeremy Irons), to save patients and staff from a collapsing wing of a hospital. The floor of an upper-story hospital nursery tilts, sending a room full of newborns through windows and hurtling toward the pavement below. They’re scattered through the air, and it’s up to the Flash to maneuver his way to scoop them up before, you know … splat.

It takes quick reactions on our hero’s part (good thing he’s the Flash) and involves popping one infant into a microwave (don’t try this at home).

Meanwhile, Batman (Ben Affleck) is doing his impersonation of a water-skier as he’s being dragged along a busy highway as he pursues a group of crooks in a truck.

The Flash

Ezra Miller plays the title role of “The Flash.” (Warner Bros.)

Even if you’re mostly bored with most superhero-movie action sequences, this combination of scenes is funny, exciting and fun. And while “The Flash” doesn’t quite match its opening the rest of the way, it’s still entertaining for the most part. (Another highlight: a battle sequence toward the end with the Raconteurs’ “Salute Your Solution” blasting on the soundtrack.)

“The Flash” is far from perfect. Directed by Andy Muschietti (the recent “It” movies), its primary gimmick is that the Flash discovers if he runs fast enough, he can turn back time. Yes, the ol’ turning back time routine. Ugh. It is the worst thing in the 1978 “Superman,” when Christopher Reeve’s Man of Steel saves Lois Lane from certain death by making the world rotate backward to turn back time, and it’s the worst thing in “The Flash.” I mean, why not always use superpowers to remedy unfortunate events? So much for any suspense or real danger when you have this quick fix.

Here, toward the end of the film, the Flash keeps trying to sprint his way to better results – and it becomes tiresome. It also leads to all sorts of “multiverse” situations, which have become a big trend in superhero flicks because a multiverse opens up all kinds of new plot possibilities. (Personally, I hate multiverses and their multiple realities; one reality, in real life or in movies, is challenging enough.)

The good news is we get to see various versions of Justice League superheroes (DC Comics’ equivalent of Marvel’s Avengers), whether in cameos or supporting roles. Michael Keaton, returning to the screen as Bruce Wayne/Batman, and Sasha Calle, as Kara Zor-El/Supergirl, have prominent roles and are the most interesting characters in the film. Affleck, back as the contemporary Bruce Wayne/Batman, also seems more comfortable in the role.

Miller, who looks like a young Jimmy Fallon, plays two versions of youthful Barry Allen/the Flash, and he’s given amusing lines – like when he describes himself as “the janitor of the Justice League” or when he says, “I’m not very good with people … even myself.” Miller also has more serious, bittersweet scenes when he goes back in time and encounters his mother (Maribel Verdu) before she is about to be murdered. But Miller lacks the charisma and screen presence of his Marvel counterpart, Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and we’re less engaged by Miller’s character(s) as a result.

Along with the humor, the action and the sci-fi scenario, “The Flash” deals with tragedy, grief and identity, as the murders of Bruce Wayne’s parents and that of Allen’s mother keep coming up. Lines like “Don’t let your tragedy define you” and “That pain made me who I am” seem contradictory, but the overall point is made that tragedy is a part of life and you have to learn to deal with it.

Still, the thing that sticks with you about “The Flash” is that crazy baby shower. *** (out of four)

Jen goes slumming

Why would Jennifer Lawrence want to star in a film like “No Hard Feelings” (R, 103 minutes, in theaters)?

You’d expect an Oscar-winning actress of her popularity and stature, who presumably has her pick of material, to choose something with a little more substance than a generic sex comedy with a cringy premise.

Maybe she just wanted to show that she doesn’t take herself too seriously, that she’s a good sport who isn’t afraid to look silly.

Regardless of her reason, “No Hard Feelings,” directed by Gene Stupnitsky (“Good Boys”), won’t do anything to advance her career. It probably won’t hurt it, either. Most likely, it will be quickly forgotten.

No Hard Feelings

Jennifer Lawrence and Andrew Barth Feldman appear in “No Hard Feelings.” (Macall Polay/Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Lawrence plays Maddie Barker, a single woman in her early 30s who lives alone in the house she inherited from her mother in the beach community of Montauk, Long Island. Maddie works at a local pub and drives tourists as an Uber driver, but she runs into trouble when her car is repossessed and house taxes are due.

She needs money, or a car to make money, fast, and that opportunity arrives when she sees an ad in which a wealthy couple (Matthew Broderick, Laura Benanti) offer to sign over a Buick (how convenient) to an experienced woman who will “date” (as in deflower) their painfully shy 19-year-old son, Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman), before he heads off to Princeton.

Kind of creepy, right?

Maddie takes the assignment. She tells the parents she’ll “date his brains out.” Predictably, after some comically unsuccessful attempts to seduce Percy, she starts to have real feelings for him (not necessarily romantic feelings; more like big-sister feelings – that is, if Big Sis is still willing to sleep with little brother for a Buick).

The gags – often involving Maddie’s frustration with Percy’s clueless innocence – are hit-or-miss, while the blossoming of their relations is too contrived to believe. The film’s highlight – involving Percy, a piano and a surprising rendition of a Hall & Oates hit – seems to come out of nowhere and is the film’s one genuinely moving scene.

If only the film offered more moments like that. **½

** Click here for  Tim Miller’s previous movie columns for Cape Cod Wave **

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Tim Miller

Tim Miller, Movie Critic

Tim Miller is co-president of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He teaches film and journalism at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.


About the author

Tim Miller

Tim Miller, a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics, was the Cape Cod Times film critic for nearly 36 years. A Detroit native (and hardcore Tigers fan), he’s been obsessed with movies since skipping school in 1962 to see “Lawrence of Arabia” with his parents when he was 7. Miller earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and his master’s from Suffolk University, where he taught film and journalism for 10 years. He continues to teach film at Curry College and Cape Cod Community College. He is a juror each year for the short-film competition of the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, has moderated several panel discussions at the Woods Hole Film Festival and frequently is heard as a guest on Cape & Islands NPR station WCAI. His work appeared as a chapter in the book “John Sayles: Interviews.” His favorite movie is Cameron Crowe's “Almost Famous” – because it makes him feel good to be alive.

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