Flash Movie Review: Tar

I HAVE ALWAYS WONDERED IN AMAZEMENT how composers create symphonic musical compositions. Not to take away any accolades from sonatas or cadenzas; but I cannot understand how a composer can hear all the musical instruments in their head, then put it all down on paper. My first exposure to a live, classical music concert was prior to me going into kindergarten. I remember it was a Beethoven symphony. The conductor was an older gentleman with salt and pepper colored hair. Just before he was to start, he tapped the top of his music stand with his baton, to get everyone’s attention in the orchestra. Up until that point, members of the orchestra were fiddling with their musical instruments; at least from my perspective as a young child, it appeared to me they were goofing around playing random notes. I did not know they were tuning and warming themselves up before they were to perform. With different sections of the orchestra making themselves known at different times, I did not know where to look first; it all seemed a bit magical to me. And then there is this one man, the conductor, steering the players from beginning to end. Granted when I was small, I was not clear on what exactly the conductor was doing. I was able to understand when he wanted the members to play louder or softer, but some of his arm gestures confused me. Nonetheless, sitting through that symphony sparked my interest in classical music to the point where I eventually took piano lessons.      SOMETIME SOON AFTER SEEING THAT CONCERT, I was going downtown on the train. We were sitting in the car where the conductor was stationed. They would go from one side of the train car to the other, depending on which side the doors were facing the train stations. It was their job to open and close the doors. I watched them at each stop, sticking their head out the window before opening the doors with a flip of one switch. They continued in that position until they determined it was time to close the doors and come back inside. As I was watching them, I made the connection that they and the orchestra conductor both had this power to move people into action. To me, it was like they had a special power like a superhero. Just with a flip of a finger the train conductor could grant or deny access to anyone they so desired. The musical conductor, with a wave of their wand, could make someone stop or start playing their instrument. I was curious to know how that power must have felt for them and how they managed it. If what I saw in this music drama is an indication, then I will need to rethink my feelings about orchestra conductors.      JUST AS A BOOK DEBUT AND live recording are about to take place, a famous conductor’s past reemerges to topple her greatest feats. With Cate Blanchett (Don’t Look Up, Thor: Ragnarok) as Lydia Tar, Noemie Merlant (Paper Flags, Portrait of a Lady on Fire) as Francesca Lentini, Nina Hoss (A Most Wanted Man, Phoenix) as Sharon Goodnow, newcomer Sophie Kauer as Olga Metkina and Mark Strong (The Catcher was a Spy, Shazam!) as Eliot Kaplan; this Oscar nominated film had as its driving force Cate’s performance. She was outstanding in the role. I thought the whole cast gelled well together, despite the weakness in the script. I encountered several confusing scenes, where I was trying to figure out who to be sorry for. From what I have been told afterwards, there are musical misconceptions in this picture. I also found scenes that were not 100% believable. There was a weird mix between stellar and weak scenes that prevented the story from flowing out like a beautiful concerto.                   

2 ¾ stars 

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Flash Movie Review: Dog Gone

IT IS TRUE WHAT THEY SAY about you learning about someone based on how they treat their pet. I had a friend who had a wonderful relationship with their dog. Time was always set aside for the two of them to have quality time together. The dog grew up being such a loving creature, who always wanted to be in whatever room you were in. I dog sat for them over a weekend and the dog showed me unconditional love. If I was sitting on the sofa watching television, he would jump up and plop himself down next to me, resting his head on my leg. He had several toys he loved to either play with or gnaw on. The first time I watched my friend tell the dog to go get a specific toy, I was stunned when the dog came back with that toy in his mouth. I could not wait to try it when I babysat him. After taking an inventory of what toys were out, I told the dog to go get his carrot. Off he ran and in a matter of seconds he returned with the carrot sticking out of his mouth. I asked for a couple of other toys then we spent the time playing with them; me tossing them and him racing to get them to bring back to me.      I HAVE BEEN AROUND SOME DOG owners who were not nice people; their dogs were a direct reflection of them. There was one owner who only wanted a dog to “guard” the house. Not that they did any training for it, the owner felt any robber who heard the dog barking would leave the property alone. There was a neighbor in my building who was not friendly, with no personality. His two dogs seemed to have the same temperament; all they would do is bark at you. Whether riding down the elevator or crossing their path outside, they just barked and yapped. In summer, the neighbor used to leave the dogs outside on the balcony; but, after other residences complained about the constant barking, the owner had to bring the dogs inside. During my dating years, I quickly got a feel about the person if they had a pet. Dogs can be such a great example of unconditional love and in turn, teach their owners how to express it. If you care to see how relationships grow when there is a pet involved, then feel free to view this biographical, family drama film.      WHEN HIS SON’S DOG GOES MISSING, a father reluctantly joins his son in a search along the Appalachian trail. Their hiking would reveal more than the beautiful scenery. With Rob Lowe (How to Be a Latin Lover, Wayne’s World) as John Marshall, Johnny Berchtold (Snow Falls, Life as a Mermaid-TV) as Fielding Marshall, Kimberly Williams-Paisley (We are Marshall, Father of the Bride franchise) as Ginny Marshall, Nick Peine (Office Christmas Party, Just Getting Started) as Nate and newcomer Savannah Bruffey as Peyton Marshall; this movie based on a true story was predictable and a bit cheesy. The production seemed amateurish and low cost, while the acting was just okay. However, it was hard not to like the story line and fall in love with the dog. The script was filled with emotions though I wished they had been portrayed in a better way. Now if one is not a dog lover, they probably will get bored watching this picture. For those who are pet owners, there is a good chance their hearts will be touched by various scenes. I especially enjoyed seeing the people associated with the production of this film and their pets during the ending credits. Overall, this was an easy movie viewing experience that showed how a dog can affect a family’s life.

2 stars  

Flash Movie Review: M3gan

SOME OF YOU MIGHT REMEMBER, I have a love/hate relationship with technology. When the devices are working properly, they can be terrific; but when they aren’t, they are such a pain. Driving to the office today, I was listening to a dance mix through my wireless speaker. Suddenly, the music cut off; I looked at my device and tapped pause. Just when I did it, the speaker turned off which is something it has never done. I decided to turn off my IPOD, wait several seconds before turning it back on, then turned on the wireless speaker. Everything was fine, like nothing had happened. It is stuff like this that drives me crazy. I cannot tell you how many times I have had IT personnel in my office because of an issue I was having with my computer and they will say, “I have never seen that before.” At first, I thought it was me, that I was doing something wrong; but, I was doing the same thing that my co-workers were doing, yet getting a different response. This is one of the reasons I never buy a new electronic device when it first becomes available. I already have a sense of mistrust; I do not want to get something that might reveal a couple of bugs from its initial use in the general population.      MY MISTRUST SURPRISES ME CONSIDERING HOW much I loved robotic things when I was younger. The first robot I remember seeing was the one in the original film, “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” I loved that robot because of how protective it was of the space alien. Then came Robby the Robot, Rosie from “The Jetsons” and the one from the television series, “Lost in Space.” I thought it would be cool to have a robot as a family member. Someone you could play with, who always would be your protector. And yet, I find myself at this place in time where a simple conversation with a neighbor in the building elevator produces an advertisement on my social media of an item the two of us were talking about. Who says our devices are not listening to us? With every friend who has a personal assistant device in their home, I have always had a moment on the telephone where the device has interrupted our conversation because it thought they were being addressed by my friend. And yet, I have gotten used to asking Siri for directions or setting a reminder for me. But that is the extent of my usage; I am not comfortable doing anything more involved. And, if you think I am a bit paranoid, then watch what takes place in this horror thriller.      AFTER LOSING BOTH OF HER PARENTS, in a horrific automobile accident, a young girl finds comfort with a gift given to her by her aunt. It is a new generation interactive toy that is nearly lifelike. Its main objective is to protect the girl, which it soon learns to do at any cost. With Allison Williams (Get Out, Peter Pan Live!) as Gemma, Violet McGraw (Black Widow, Separation) as Cady, Ronny Chieng (Crazy Rich Asians, Godzilla vs. Kong) as David, Brian Jordan Alvarez (A Spy Movie, Stuck) as Cole and Jenna Davis (Raven’s Home-TV, A Girl Named Jo-TV) as the voice of M3gan; this movie was fun. I know that sounds odd since it is listed as a horror film; but I must tell you, it was a smart production that knew exactly how to put a slight twist on the predictable. There were some humorous moments in the dialog and song choices that were a surprise to me. I appreciated the story and thought Allison and Violet were well suited to each other. There were several scenes of blood and violence that gratefully were not too graphic. Of course, I felt a connection to the story line, due to the one aspect of having a protector. Overall, this was an enjoyable movie watching experience.

3 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Violent Night

LATELY, I HAVE BEEN GOING THROUGH several resumes, looking to fill a position at the office. The first thing that will make me discard a candidate is when there are words misspelled. I figure if they cannot take the time to proofread their work, what quality of work will they provide for the department, in turn the company. There was one resume where according to the candidate, they started at their first job before they started high school; they did not catch the error in the start dates they listed. For those that pass the first step in the interview process, I look for stability; would the candidate be a good fit into the department and would they enjoy the position/work. I firmly believe if a person doesn’t like what they are doing at work, then they need to look for a new position either at the company or at a different one. I cannot tell you how many times I am at a store and see at least one employee who looks disengaged or bored. Worse is when you have to deal with an employee who is not happy a/k/a rude. Asking a worker where an item is in the store and they just motion with a head nod and say, “over there,” is rude and shows poor customer service. They obviously do not care about the company that employs them.      I DO REALIZE THE PERSON WHO is employed could actually be a great worker; but they were not the right person for the right job. When I do a face to face interview, I want to learn if the candidate is a visual or audio learner, is a self-starter or prefers being told what to do, along with their ideal work environment. If a person is not capable of multitasking and the job requires it, they would not be a good fit. In turn, they could become frustrated or annoyed and that is not a path to becoming successful. The employees I hire I want to be the best they can be and to be happy. For many of us who work in an office or plant, we sometimes spend more time with our co-workers than with our own families. And speaking of families, I have worked at a couple of family owned businesses and in my experiences they have their own set of unique challenges. Sometimes you get next generation personnel who love their family business and want it to be the best. Other times you get individuals who feel entitled and rest on their family’s name. I think the main character in this film, Santa Claus, is at a crossroads regarding his position in this comedic, action crime movie.      A GROUP OF HIGHLY SKILLED ROBBERS descend on the estate of a wealthy family just when Santa is there to leave presents. With the thieves on Santa’s naughty list, this Santa is going to leave them something more than just a lump of coal. With David Harbour (Black Widow, No Sudden Move) as Santa, John Leguizamo (Summer of Sam, Moulin Rouge!) as Scrooge, Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise, American History X) as Gertrude, Alex Hassell (Suburbicon, The Tragedy of Macbeth) as Jason and Alexis Louder (Copshop, The Tomorrow War) as Linda; this was a fun, twisted spin on the Santa Claus character. David was the standout of the cast, with John Leguizamo close behind him. The story is a mix of Bad Santa, Home Alone, and Krampus in a way, but had some differences too. Several characters were close to cartoonish, with some delivering cheesy lines. I liked the sweetness factor in the script and appreciated how the writers mixed those scenes into the violent ones. Make no mistake, there is a lot of blood and violence on display in this picture; however, the craziness factor acts like a salve to smooth out the contrasts. And to tell you the truth, I think this Santa would be fun to host someday.                                                   

3 stars  

Flash Movie Review: Firebird

IN COLLEGE, I BECAME A FRIEND and confidant to my lab partner in our freshman year. We both had a similar sense of humor and shared the same interests, one of them being we were both from out of state. Early into the semester she told me she had a boyfriend back home which was fine with me, since I was not looking to date someone for the time being. I was more concerned with keeping up with my heavy course load. I asked her if it was hard being away from him and she said, “Not at all.” Well, that was not the response I was expecting; so, I decided to question her further. It turned out both of their parents introduced them to each other. She found him controlling but her parents approved of him because he was of the same religion. Before I could stop myself, I asked if they would still approve of him if he was verbally or heaven forbid physically abusive to her? She replied, “More than likely they would still approve of him.” I could not believe it. What was wrong with her folks, I wondered. Before I could comment further, she told me she was seeing someone else prior, but because he had a different religion, her parents would not allow him to come over to their house. I did not say this, but I was thinking how sad that situation must have been.      TO ME, ONE OF THE MOST powerful things a human being can do is to love someone. To feel it, acknowledge it and express it is a monumental moment in a person’s life. What I cannot understand are those individuals who wish to suppress that emotion/feeling in other people because it does not fit into their beliefs. The amount of time, energy and money being devoted in denying groups of people from expressing their love, for themselves and for someone else, is both horrifying and appalling. I would like to ask these people who protest and shout at marginalized groups, “How does their life infringe upon yours?” If a person loves someone of the same sex, what difference does it make to the person who opposes it? Or if a woman chooses to end her pregnancy, what right is it for a stranger to tell her she cannot do it? I have a hard time hearing and seeing this type of hatred; I cannot think what else to call it. A person realizing, they were born in the wrong body is a decision only they can decide, no one else. The toll it takes on these individuals who simply want to express their love for themselves or for another is exorbitant. You can see it for yourself in this film festival winning romantic drama.      DURING THE HEIGHT OF THE COLD war, a Soviet soldier finds himself becoming attracted to a new charismatic, confident pilot. With the KGB on high alert, any move out of order could be met with the severest of punishments. With Tom Prior (The Theory of Everything, Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Sergey Serebrennikov, Oleg Zagorodnii (Who Are You-TV, Oboroten v Pogonakh) as Roman Matvejev, Diana Pozharskaya (Zhara, The Counted-TV) as Luisa, newcomer Jake Henderson as Volodja and Nicholas Woodeson (Skyfall, The Man Who Knew Too Little) as Colonel Kuznetsov; this movie based on a true story was filmed beautifully. I thought the script was bit heavy handed on the emotions despite my feeling that it had glossed over the roughness of the environment. Regardless, it was a touching story that conveyed the dangers present during the 1970s in the Soviet Union. I thought the two main stars did a good job of conveying their emotions, along with a mix of dread. I was able to sense the pressure they were under. This is just me; but because the story is based in the Soviet Union’s air force, I did have a small sense of disbelief while watching this film. What they had to deal with just to be able to express their love.                                          

2 ¾ stars  

Flash Movie Review: Ambulance

I KNEW AS I WAS SWALOWING the ibuprofen that I had just taken my last ride on a roller coaster. It was a wild ride, I have to admit; there were loop and corkscrew turns, besides a death drop into a short tunnel that looked like it was too small for us to enter. The funny thing is out of the entire ride the worst part for me was the initial climb up. There is something about the roller coaster cars chugging up the incline while my back is pinned to the back of the seat that makes me uncomfortable. I think part of the reason is due to the height of the climb. At some point there is no visible structure around the cars, so it looks like we are balancing on a single set of tracks or a single track that makes me uncomfortable. I do not know if I am afraid of a strong wind pushing us over or that the passengers’ weight distribution is lopsided in one of the cars that makes it topple over, taking the rest of the cars with it. I just know I have never liked that part of the ride since I was a little kid. As we climbed out of the car, I had to hold onto the banister to steady myself as I noticed I had just gotten a headache. Also, my stomach was queasy. Hence, the drug and the realization my days of riding were over.      I THOUGHT I WOULD MISS THE excitement and thrill of riding a roller coaster; but to tell you the truth, I actually do not feel any sense of loss or feelings of being left out while hanging out at the base of the attraction while my friends and family are enjoying the ride. I still marvel at the engineering technology of a roller coaster and enjoy hearing the screams from passengers who whiz by me as I am safe and comfortable on a nearby bench. I have a relative who is a senior citizen who still rides roller coasters. In fact, they have performed a couple of wedding ceremonies while on a roller coaster; it is true! They made arrangements with the park to have the entire wedding party ride the attraction. When they reached the pinnacle after the beginning climb, the park stopped the ride and my relative performed the service. Right after they pronounced them man and wife, the park started the ride back up and the wedding party completed the course. I appreciated the party’s excitement at the unusual venue; I find my thrills and excitement in different ways as well and one of them is watching a film like this action, crime drama.      IN DESPARATE NEED OF MONEY, A husband turns to his adoptive brother for help. To get the funds, he would only have to be a participant in a bank robbery. With Jake Gyllenhaal (The Guilty, Stronger) as Danny Sharp, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Candyman, The Trial of the Chicago 7) as Will Sharp, Eiza Gonzalez (Baby Driver, Godzilla vs. Kong) as Cam Thompson, Garret Dillahunt (12 Years a Slave, No Country for Old Men) as Captain Monroe and Keir O’Donnell (Wedding Crashers, American Sniper) as FBI Agent; this film directed by Michael Bay (Armageddon, Transformers franchise) was small on talk and character development but big on thrills and crazy excitement. I was in the right mood to see this film because I only wanted to experience it, not think about it. The acting was terrific from the three main characters and though there was a repetitive quality to the script, the stunt driving and fights were wild. Essentially, the story was a series of intense events that followed one after another. As long as one is looking for a visceral experience, then this movie will provide the correct nutrients for excitement. And you might not have to take Ibuprofen, but I cannot guarantee one might need motion sickness medication. 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Whale

I DO NOT REMEMBER WHY I enjoyed eating an entire loaf of bread before dinner; I just knew it felt good. Even if I could bring details back from when I was doing it, I was too young to understand why I was doing it. The only thing I can remember is the comforting feeling that came over me while eating the bread; though, bread was not the only food I would excessively indulge in. Sometimes I would stop at one of the ice cream trucks that were always driving through my neighborhood with their tinkling bells and recorded music, like mobile pied pipers enticing every child within earshot. I would always order the largest chocolate ice cream cone and be able to finish it all during my short walk home from school. It is odd to me now how I could eat an entire meal despite having stuffed myself with these added carb and sugar laden foods. It was not until my later years in elementary school that I made the connection between my feelings and food. Whenever I was made fun of or picked on, I would immediately after school focus on what I could eat that would make me feel better. If I could not find something to eat once outside the school building, I would go home and if there was not much bread available, I would look for cookies in the pantry; and if there were none, I always knew my last resort would be to eat breakfast cereal right out of the box.      DURING HIGH SCHOOL I BEGAN TO delve deeper into my eating habits. I was determined to change my appearance. I was able to do it despite having two major setbacks. Then in college, where I had several courses in psychology, I learned how to deal with my emotions in a healthy way. To maintain my appearance, I cut out snacking between meals. With just that change along with my rule of no eating five hours before going to bed, I was able to keep weight off. Granted, I was no longer stuffing my feelings down by stuffing my face. One of the most important words I incorporated into my life was “balance.” During the weekdays I remained strict with my diet; however, on the weekends I was free to indulge in comfort food as long as it was not too excessive. I have a friend who understands my philosophy, but they are not there yet; they have not controlled the act of rewarding themselves with decadent type foods. For the main character in this drama, I understood what he was doing and deep down I think he understood as well.      WITH HIS PROSPECTS DIMMING FOR A long life, a father wants to reconnect with his estranged daughter, who he has not seen in several years. With Brendan Fraser (The Poison Rose, Doom Patrol-TV) as Charlie, Sadie Sink (Eli, Stranger Things-TV) as Ellie, Ty Simpkins (Jurassic World, Insidious franchise) as Thomas, Hong Chau (Downsizing, The Menu) as Liz and Samantha Morton (The Messenger, Miss Julie) as Mary; this movie provided me with something I have not seen in a while; an immediate realization I was watching an Oscar worthy acting performance. Brendan was absolutely spectacular. I felt his acting gave the cast an extra boost because they were all excellent. Directed by Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan), I thought this was one of his better films. The script was slow and steady, taking place mostly in one spot; but the emotions tied up with the story and Brendan’s performance nearly took me into his world. Despite some predictability and the slow trickle of back story, I was fully engaged with the characters and understood what they were going through for the most part. I left the movie theater on a high for seeing such a well-done film that deserves to be recognized this awards season.                                    

3 ½ stars  

Flash Movie Review: Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over

I APPRECIATE LISTENING TO THE SOUND of a beautiful singing voice. Even some speaking voices are wonderful to listen to, in my opinion. I tend to gravitate to those singers who have powerful voices, who have a wide range and can belt out the notes of a song. It amazes me how a vocalist can maneuver through a musical composition with perfect diction and tone. When I attend concerts to see musical acts, I expect the performers to sing live. When choreography became just as important as the singing, artists started to rely more on recorded tracks and simply lip synch the songs. As some of you are aware of, I am not a fan of lip synching or auto tuning at a concert. Though the staging and choreography play a strong part in live shows, I would rather have live singing be the focus. If I am spending money to see a performer simply lip synch to recordings, I could save the money and listen to their album at home. There have been several music artists I have seen in concert who are on stage performing for close to 3 hours, all of it live. To me they are the standard when it comes to live shows.      WHEN A MUSICAL ARTIST ACHIEVES A high level of success, I am highly impressed when they contribute to humanitarian causes, either financially, physically, or as spokesperson. There are singers and bands that are as well known for their charity work as for their performances. I admire the work they do and appreciate them more when they do not let their charitable work take centerstage. Then there are those artists who think just because they are successful in the musical world, they have the right to impart their opinions and thoughts on the general population. I frown on such actions because I do not equate musical success with world politics. An extreme example would be the musical artist who has been recently in the news for his antisemitic remarks. Just like I do not see certain actors’ movies due to their offensive actions, I do the same thing to musical artists. I never played in my fitness classes an artist’s music if they were racist, sexist or prejudiced, either the lyrics in their song or in their personal life. Feeling the way I do; I was taken by surprise while watching this musical documentary. Also, as a sidenote, I saw Dionne Warwick in concert in a small venue during the twilight of her singing career and she sounded as good as when she first started out professionally singing.      COMING FROM A MUSICAL FAMILY, DIONNE WARWICK was a trailblazer in her own right. She also was the older cousin to Whitney Houston. You might be surprised to see what Dionne was able to accomplish in her life. Directed by David Heilbroner (Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland, The Newburgh Sting) and relative newcomer Dave Wooley, there were several times where I was taken completely surprised by the actions of Dionne. Granted, there has been a lot written about Dionne but there still were a few things I did not know about her. There was a segment in this film where a music rapper talks about the time early in his career when he met Dionne; it was priceless. There were other tidbits like this that Dionne shared throughout this movie. Where I said previously, I distrust artists who brag, I gained a new level of respect for Dionne as she shared some of her charitable work with the interviewer. Mixing in old footage with Dionne’s description of the time was a real treat. Hearing about the history of her songs and the things she fought for, I was left with a whole new appreciation for what she accomplished in the musical world.

3 ¼ stars 

Flash Movie Review: The Pale Blue Eye

VISITING A TOWN OUT OF STATE, I was walking down a cobblestone road while gazing into various shop windows. I was surprised by the number of shops devoted to witches. Granted most of them appeared to be geared towards tourists, with trinkets and baubles filling up their display windows. There was one store that was devoted to magic wands, nothing else. How were they making a living, I thought. I could not help wondering what the residents thought of all, what I considered to be, this gimmickry. What I really would have loved to have known was what the former residents from the late 1600s would have thought if they could have seen all the establishments, signs and statues devoted to witches and witchcraft. The reason being back in the late 1600s people were burned at the stake for being considered witches in this area. Talk about going from one extreme to the other. Maybe I am a bit nerdy to think of these things, but I have always been fascinated with the wide changes that occur in perceptions/reality. Whether it an inanimate object or human being, it does not matter to me. And honestly, I think many of you would be surprised to learn about some of them.      NEAR WHERE I GREW UP AS A kid, there used to be a garbage dump. Pretty much it was a non-descript place with tall fences around it. The village leaders decided to create a hill from the trash. Now the place is a destination stop for anyone who wants to go sledding or tobogganing. Except for the older residents no one would have a clue that underneath the grassy turf the entire hill was made from garbage. I get the same kick out of discovering what some celebrities did for a living before they were discovered. For example, James Bond’s Pierce Brosnan was a professional fire eater at a circus. Christopher Lee the actor worked for the intelligence service. And Danny DeVito was a hairdresser for corpses. I am sure some people would think my career path has some extremes in it and maybe it does, but nothing that would match the few examples I listed here. Another aspect I enjoy about the wide differences found in life is when a movie uses an historical figure in the early stages of their life. For example, the writer Herman Melville was a harpooner on a whaling ship, then in his last decades he was a customs inspector. My curiosity in this subject of contrasts/differences led me to view this crime, horror mystery film.      AFTER A CADET WAS FOUND DEAD, West Point Academy hired a detective to solve the mystery quickly in order to protect the image of the academy. Appearances were quite important. With Christian Bale (The Fighter, American Hustle) as Augustus Landor, Harry Melling (Harry Potter franchise, The Old Guard) as Cadet Edgar Allan Poe, Simon McBurney (The Last King of Scotland, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as Captain Hitchcock, Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner, Secrets & Lies) as Superintendent Thayer and Fred Hechinger (News of the World, The Woman in the Window) as Cadet Randolph Ballinger; this picture had a wonderful atmospheric look to it. With Christian and Harry blending perfectly with their characters, I was drawn into the story that was a slow burn. Everything was well placed and thought out; however, things took a turn that threw me for a loop. I did not care for how the story finished up. It seemed rushed and not as believable as the rest of the movie. Luckily, the cast kept me engaged through this rough spot; but I still found the ending odd. However, I still got a kick out of watching Edgar Allan Poe before he became famous. There were several scenes that had blood on display.

2 ½ stars 

Flash Movie Review: A Man Called Otto

EVERYONE MOURNS A LOSS IN THEIR own way, is something I learned after I became an adult. I was twelve years old when I experienced for the first time the loss of a person. When I heard the news about their death, I went over to the piano and started playing songs I thought the deceased person would like, while tears streamed down my face. It is a part of life, but the older I got the more exposed I became to experiencing the sense of loss; the loss of a loved one, a pet, a love relationship. Seeing other people’s reactions to a breakup or death, made me realize how personal these situations were for the individuals. I could not take their pain away; however, I could offer comfort in anyway that they saw fit. I just could not tell the mourning person how to feel, because I strongly believe no human has the right to tell another how to feel. There was a funeral I attended where the son was telling his mother how she should feel over the death of her brother. I was within earshot and was taken aback by the son’s “counseling.” It quickly became apparent to me the son strongly disliked his mother’s brother, his uncle. And the fact he was talking out loud like that in front of the mourners was appalling. Granted, I was not privy to the son’s relationship with the uncle; but if it was in such a poor state, the son could have chosen to not attend in my opinion.      I HOPE WHAT I AM ABOUT to say is not controversial; but from my experiences, I do not know if I would try to dissuade an individual from wanting to join their deceased person. Just last week, I was told a lovely story about a daughter who had lost their mother. The daughter told me her parents were married when they were both nineteen years old. Except for a hospital stay, they had been together every day of their lives. They loved each other deeply and loved being together. She told me when her father died ten months ago, her mother lost interest in living essentially. She was heartbroken to the point where she lost interest in many things. Having recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, she talked about her hopes for joining her deceased husband. As the holiday’s were looming at the end of the year, she stopped eating and drinking. The daughter knew she was hardly eating but did not know the extent. After the start of winter, the mother caught a virus and quickly died. Though the daughter was sad, she found comfort believing her mother was finally back with her father. Love is a powerful force and one can see it in this comedic drama.      WITHOUT THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE by his side Otto Anderson, played by Tom Hanks (Cast Away, Saving Private Ryan), became a grumpy old man, who wanted everyone to follow the rules. When a new family moved across the street from him, Otto’s world would be tested in more than one way. With relative newcomer Mack Bayda as Malcolm, Cameron Britton (Stitchers-TV, The Umbrella Academy-TV) as Jimmy, Mariana Trevino (Overboard, Perfect Strangers) as Marisol and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (The Magnificent Seven, Murder on the Orient Express) as Tommy; it was intriguing to see Tom play a curmudgeon. I thought the story was well executed and told. There was a level of predictability which, in my case, may have been due to the fact I saw the original movie this film was based on. Regardless, there were both fun and sad moments in this picture helped by the wonderful pairing of actors. The character Marisol was terrific and a perfect counterpoint to Tom’s character. This was an enjoyable film that had heartwarming elements in it.

3 stars 

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