Monthly Archives: April 2023

Flash Movie Review: Renfield

I DO BELIEVE IT WAS BECAUSE he agreed to marry her. When she introduced me to him, I got an odd vibe from him, like a tightly wound spring that was about to pop. She was in love with him; I could see it in the way she was acting around him. I had seen it a few times before. They had only known each other for 3-4 months, which for me would be too soon to consider marriage, but that is me. She was certain he was the right one, so who was I to tell her no. When she told me they were getting married, I had been around them a few times, so had a better sense about him. I had some misgivings, but my bottom line was as long as he treated her right, I was happy for them. The wedding was a small affair; they had both been married before. It was not long after they were able to sell her house and move into a larger one that would accommodate their newly combined households. I remember visiting them some time after they moved, and it looked like they had everything in its place, and I mean everything. It almost appeared as if no one lived there, it was so pristine.      THE FIRST TIME I HAD AN INKLING that something was not exactly right was when she and I were talking on the phone. She mentioned how every Saturday he wakes her up at 4 am to clean house. At first, I thought she meant he was making her clean the whole house; but she corrected me, he participated. The issue for her was the time. Her weekends were the only time she could sleep in and not be bombarded with work from her job. As the months went by, she was opening up more about their relationship. He was a rule follower as long as they were his rules. He also had a bad temper which sent a red flag up for me. I detected less joy in her voice and more unease. It appeared to me he was more interested in having a housekeeper than an equal partner. I finally had to say something about it. From our talks, I pushed her to tell me what made her happy in her marriage. Her answers ranged from her physical attraction to him, to him throwing out the garbage once a week. It was an odd mix, but through it I could see she was co-dependent. She tried talking to him, suggesting marriage counseling; however, he was not interested. At some point she would have to decide for herself, just like the manservant needed to do in this comedic, fantasy horror.      HAVING BEEN AT HIS MASTER’S BECK and call throughout the years, the manservant Renfield, played by Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies, The Menu) took the first step for healing himself by joining a codependency support group. With Nicolas Cage (Pig, Running with the Devil) as Dracula, Awkwafina (Ocean’s Eight, The Farewell) as Rebecca, Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation-TV, Space Force-TV) as Tedward Lobo and Shohreh Aghdashloo (Star Trek Beyond, House of Sand and Fog) as Bellafrancesca Lobo; this film was a campy blood fest filled with over-the-top performances from the actors. The role was perfect for Nicholas Cage; in fact, I would have liked to have seen more scenes with Dracula. However, Awkwafina was wonderful and entertaining which made up for the lack of Dracula. The story’s idea was novel and fun; the execution was a bit standard, while it remembered to keep the humor going. I think the best way to describe this movie is to say it is silly fun. And be prepared for the volume of violence and blood gushing across the screen.

3 stars 


Flash Movie Review: Burning

I FELT LIKE I WAS WEARING a disguise because he did not recognize me. One night I was about to start my yoga class when an unfamiliar couple walked in. As was my custom, I went up to introduce myself and ask if they had ever done yoga before. Through the conversation, I never let on that I recognized the man; I was friends with him in elementary school. Granted, I had lost a lot of weight, had a beard and was wearing a baseball hat; so, chances were he would not have remembered me after all these years. However, after class I went up to ask both how they felt. At some point during the conversation, I came out and asked if he recognized me. He looked at me for a moment and said no. I chuckled and asked how his sister was, to see if that would jog his memory. His face showed such utter confusion that I chuckled and told him my name. Not only did he stare at me in disbelief, but he asked me what happened to me, that I was so skinny now. It was my turn to chuckle before I answered him.      I TOLD HIM EVERYTHING I LEARNED about fitness; I learned after I left high school. That statement got us started on talking about our years together in school. I mentioned that I could only recall us having a gym class together in high school and he said he remembered the class; but he cut it often. I shared with him how I had to cut gym class sometimes out of concerns for my safety. That is not a typical statement, I know; he asked what happened. From what I told him, we each shared our horror stories about high school. The thing that amazed me the most was how my perceptions of him did not match who I thought he was in school. Because of his laid-back appearance and lack of enthusiasm during the school day, I thought he had little motivation. He explained how he found most of the classes boring, naming a few teachers he thought were the worst. When he would cut class, he would go downtown to explore the different museums or go to a particular exhibit or concert. I was so surprised to hear this since I interpreted his actions as a slacker. On the contrary, he was at the city’s main library studying the same school subjects we were, but he really wanted to learn about the assigned topic. What a surprise! It just goes to show, you can never assume you know how a person will turn out from your childhood. It can be seen in this film festival winning, mystery thriller.      IT WAS A BIT OF A SHOCK that the employee during her performance was flirting with him. It was a bigger shock when she said she knew him. With Yao Ah-in (The Throne, Voice of Silence) as Lee Jong-ju, Steven Yeun (I Origins, Minari) as Ben, Jeon Jong-seo (Nothing Serious, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon) as Shin Hae-mi, newcomer Kim Sao-Kyung as Yeon-ju and newcomer Choi Seung-ho as Lee Yong-seok; this drama was a slow burn, pun intended. For the beginning portion of the movie, I kept wondering when things would pick up. Things slowly took place in what seemed to be no particular direction. On a better note, I was fascinated seeing on display the Korean culture and landscape. One could argue there were different stories taking place, that were filled with symbolism and metaphors. Maybe there was, but I am not the type to delve into a movie story’s psyche and try to figure out what the writer and director were trying to say. Korean was spoken with English subtitles.

2 ¾ stars 

Flash Movie Review: Smile

WHEN I WENT TO THE NEW dentist my first time, I did not realize he came from a line of dentists. I was sitting in the exam room waiting for him, looking at the different certificates that were hanging on the walls. He came in and introduced himself, extending his hand out to me to shake. Once we went over the preliminary discussion on why I was there and such, I asked him about one of the graduation certificates on the wall. The reason being the school was in one of my favorite cities. He told me that was not his certificate but his father’s. I was momentarily surprised which he detected because he offered me his family history. The dentist practice was started by his grandfather, who came to the states from Germany. My dentist’s father came into the practice after graduating college. I asked the dentist if he always wanted to be a dentist like his father and grandfather. He said he did from a young age, when his dad would bring him to the office, and he became fascinated by the X-rays of teeth and all the tools. To me, it was just interesting that the practice was made up by three generations. I have always wondered if multiple generational occupations happen by chance or some other variant.      I WAS WATCHING A TELEVISION INTERVIEW, where the interviewee was explaining why she became a medical scientist. She explained when she was young, she watched her mother die of cancer. She remembered wishing she had a way of saving her mother. When the mother died, she decided she wanted to find a cure for cancer and that is what led her to the position she was now in. Though I understood how tragic the circumstances were for the scientist, I was intrigued how a set of events affects a child/person’s options in what they want to do for an occupation. I look at my history and I started out wanting to be a singer, to veterinarian to dancer to a DJ to a fitness teacher to credit and finances. There was no one who influenced or swayed me to any of these professions. For example, I have always loved animals. As I was growing up, I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian. When I was getting closer to my college years, I decided to apply to schools that had extensive networks to achieve my goal. It was not until I was halfway through the program when I realized I was not meant to become an animal doctor. Seeing what the main character in this horror, mystery thriller experienced in childhood, I had to wonder if she could do it all over again, would she have chosen the same line of work.      AFTER WITNESSING A TRAUMATIC EVENT IN her office with a patient, Doctor Rose Cotter, played by Sosie Bacon (13 Reasons Why, Off Season) began seeing and experiencing unusual events. With Jesse T. Usher (Shaft, Independence Day: Resurgence) as Trevor, Kyle Gallner (Scream, Ghosts of War) as Joel, Robin Weigert (The Sessions, Big Little Lies-TV) as Dr. Madeline Northcott and Caitlin Stasey (Kindred Spirits, Please Like Me-TV) as Laura Weaver: this picture surprised me. Not being a fan of horror films in general, this movie offered legitimate eerie and scary scenes as it told its story. Because there was an element of suspense, I was entertained more than I had expected. Sure, there were elements of other films in this story and some of the characters had little back story to help connect with the viewer; but I felt the writers accomplished what they wanted to do and that is provide a tense mystery drama. What helped in my opinion was the absence of evil beings and spirits created from the makeup/CGI department. It was more of an old school horror vibe film, which I appreciated.

2 ¾ stars

Flash Movie Review: Luckiest Girl Alive

WHEN I WAS TOLD GIRLS WERE nasty fighters, I did not understand what it meant. I remember looking around at the girls in my classroom and wondering how any of them could be “nasty.” It was not too long after hearing this “fact” before I saw it with my own eyes. A fight broke out on the playground between two girls when we were all outside for recess. Only seeing a group of boys and girls congregating at a corner of the playground was the only reason I even knew something must have been going on. I thought it might have been a stray dog that wandered onto the playground or some weird looking insect; but it was nothing like that. As I came up behind the crowd of kids, I could hear two girls yelling at each other. Within a matter of seconds, the crowd started shouting out stuff as the two girls’ argument became physical. I only caught glimpses of it as the girls were scratching and slapping each other, besides throwing punches and kicks. One of the girl’s punches missed the face and hit the other girl in the shoulder. When she recoiled back, her blouse ripped from the fist still holding onto some decorative ruffles. Both girls’ faces started bleeding just as a group of teachers broke up the fight.    THE GIRL WHO TOOK THE WORSE beating was in my class. When she walked into the room the next day, I could see the other students glancing at her bruises and scratches. She did not make eye contact with anyone, keeping her face down as best as she could while walking to her desk. I felt bad for her. When she reached her desk and sat down at it, a boy who sat kitty-corner to her leaned over and called her a loser. A couple of the kids who heard started to giggle. I could not believe it. The poor girl just sat there staring at her desktop. Whatever caused the fight did not matter, it still was not right to make fun of her. Since the boy who called her a loser was one of the alpha male bullies in the class, a couple of the other boys started to call her names whenever they saw her in the hallway. I did not see her the next year, so I had to assume she either went to a different school or moved out of the neighborhood; I could not blame her if that was indeed the case. This is why I partially understood what the main character in this dramatic, mystery thriller did to herself.      ANI FANELLI, PLAYED BY MILA KUNIS (Black Swan, Bad Moms franchise) appeared to have a perfectly charmed life. Yet no one knew she was a survivor from a horrific tragedy. With Chiara Aurelia (Gerald’s Game, Cruel Summer-TV) as young Ani, Finn Wittrock (Unbroken, American Horror Story-TV) as Luke Harrison, Connie Britton (Joe Bell, Nashville-TV) as Dina and Scoot McNairy (Frank, 12 Years a Slave) as Andrew Larson; this movie was lucky to have Mila in the lead role. I thought she was the big standout from the cast; her acting was excellent. Unfortunately, it was not enough to make up for the uneven direction of the choppy script. There were elements of the story that were engaging, but jumping back and forth in time was a distraction for me. I feel if the writers had stuck with one story line, then this film would have had a greater impact on me. The topic was tough to watch as were the other main story lines. By the end of the film, I had to sit there and think about people in general who have survived a brutal tragedy. It must be beyond awful on all levels.

2 ¼ stars 

Flash Movie Review; We Have a Ghost

I TRIED TO FEIGN INTEREST AS I listened to my friend’s father describe his latest venture. The reason I was not interested is because I had heard about his other ventures; none of them came to fruition, not earning him a solid living. My friend’s mother was the one who supported everyone on her salary, and I have to say, they were lucky she had a good job. I would not say the father was lazy, because he really dove into these ventures he thought up; but all that came of it was losing money. There were times when my friend told me his mom was getting fed up with all his ideas. I felt sad for my friend and his parents. They were such fun people, for parents; it was hard seeing them struggle at times. The father was such a storyteller, always having something funny to say. I could see where he would make a great salesperson; he had a knack for conversation. My friend always said his dad could make friends with anyone. Whether standing in the checkout line at the grocery store or buying candy at a theater concession stand, he would make a funny comment about something and befriend anyone who was close enough near him. The only other positive thing I could say about him was the fact they never had to move because of something ignorant he had done, unlike another friend’s father.      WHEN WE BECAME FRIENDS IN ELEMENTARY school, she had already moved eight times. She had arrived at our school to start 7th grade; that is a lot of moving. Her father was like my other friend’s father, but his objective was to get something for nothing. I did not know at the time, but several of his ideas involved cheating people out of their money. He too had the gift of gab, which he used to build trust between him and his “clients.” The problem with him was the fact he was not the smartest person in the room. Some of his clients could see something was not right and demand their money back. This is the worst part; he would write them bad checks then tell his family to pack a suitcase and they would disappear. The thing that stunned me was the lack of concern for his wife and children. My friend never got to make solid friendships at school because they were always moving. And the trauma of being told they can only take one suitcase, leaving everything else behind, had to be brutal to do over and over. Having been a bystander to these friends’ family situations, I could understand how the son felt in this family, adventure comedy.      AFTER MOVING INTO A FIXER-UPPER HOUSE, a family of four soon find out there is someone else living in their home and that gives the dad an idea. With Jahi Di’Allo Winston (Queen & Slim, The Upside) as Kevin Presley, David Harbour (Violent Night, Black Widow) as Ernest, Anthony Mackie (The Woman in the Window, Captain America franchise) as Frank Presley, Erica Ash (Skin in the Game, Uncle Drew) as Melanie Presley and Niles Fitch (The Fallout, This is Us-TV) as Fulton Presley; this film suffered from too many story lines. If the writers had stuck with one or two of them, I think the movie would have been more entertaining. Thankfully, most of the cast was very good, especially David as Ernest. But with different things going on throughout the script, I was getting bored. It did not help that I did not care for Jahi’s performance; there was very little chemistry between him and the other characters. At least there were a couple of fun scenes in the picture; but overall, this production was transparent and ran thin.

2 stars

Flash Movie Review: The Super Mario Bros. Movie

I CAN STILL REMEMBER THE FIRST time I saw a freestanding, video arcade game. It was in a restaurant’s waiting area. Standing six feet tall, at least to my younger self’s perceptions, with a lit sign on top and a TV screen in the middle that was angled back. It was weird seeing it there by itself, in a corner of the space with a potted plant placed alongside of it. There was a teenager playing it which piqued my curiosity even more. I got closer to the teenager, but only enough to see the TV screen from an angle. With his hand clenched around the joystick (I learned of the name later), I soon figured out he was controlling the yellow ball/circle with the wide mouth, that was eating white dots in a maze. There were ghost-like figures moving around in the maze as well. I heard this thumping sound coming out of the machine. At certain times the TV screen would flash a different set of colors followed by a different sound. To a younger me, I found the machine hypnotizing. I wanted to continue standing there, watching the teenager playing with the machine; but our name was announced over the loudspeakers to let us know our table was ready. All through the meal, I kept wishing and hoping my family would stop at the machine so I could play it. Sadly, there was a different teenager playing it with two others looking over his shoulder.      BY THE TIME I BECAME OF legal age, video arcade games were more sophisticated. Whenever I went to a dance club, there was always an area that had several arcade games set up and they were always being played. There were times when I would stand near one of them and watch how the person was playing it, so I could learn. Pretty soon I had a good sense of how to play the different games. The graphics certainly had changed since I was younger. I especially enjoyed playing a few games. If they were not available, I would stand and watch to see how the person playing was doing. However, my interest never lasted long. Seeing someone else playing a video game starts out fun or curious to watch; but after a while, I usually got bored. Though I will say there were a couple of players I would recognize playing the games who were doing the same thing the last time I was at the club. With a drink either in hand or placed on top of the arcade game, they would sit there for hours playing the same game over and over. I could not imagine doing such a thing. In fact, I was getting the same feeling while watching this animated adventure comedy.      FINDING HIMSELF IN THE MUSHROOM KINGDOM, plumber Mario, voiced by Chris Pratt (The Tomorrow War, Guardians of the Galaxy franchise), is determined to find his lost brother, while at the same time helping the kingdom ward off an evil presence that was closing in. With Anya Taylor-Joy (The Menu, Last Night in Soho) voicing Princess Peach, Charlie Day (Hotel Artemis, I Want You Back) voicing Luigi, Jack Black (Jumanji franchise, School of Rock) voicing Bowser and Kevin Michael Richardson (Family Guy-TV, The Simpsons-TV) voicing Kamek; this movie based on the video game was colorful and filled with multiple fight scenes. The cast did an excellent job voicing the characters; however, after those positive attributes I found the film to be borderline boring. Keeping in mind I have never played the game; I must assume a younger audience would appreciate the film more. I found little humor in the script. The story was sound, but I just felt the script was generic. For most of the time while I sat in the theater, I felt I was watching someone playing this game and it was not very exciting for me. There were two extra scenes during the ending credits.

2 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Air

I ADMIRE ANYONE WHO SUCCEEDS AT their profession, but I especially enjoy hearing about those who wound up in their position from a random act. A celebrity, for example, who has wanted to be an actor or singer or writer since they were a small child makes for a good story. However, a person who did not have plans to be the person they became is something I find to be a better story. Let me give you a couple of examples. From what I have read, Harrison Ford did not have much success from his first acting gigs; so, he kept to his day job as a carpenter. He was installing a door at the home of Francis Ford Coppola when George Lucas came over for a visit. From the short interaction the two had, George cast him as Hans Solo in Star Wars. Can you believe it? What would have happened to Harrison if George had not walked in on him that day?!?! A story I read that I find unbelievable, based on her acting skills, is the one about Jennifer Lawrence. She and her mother were visiting New York City when a man came up to her at a train station, asking if she had ever done modeling. I know that sounds creepy, but it was true. From that encounter doing some modeling work, she caught Hollywood’s eye. And she never had an acting class or a film role up until that time when she was discovered. It is crazy!      I HAVE THE SAME FEELING ABOUT the contestants on the couple of reality competition shows I follow. Hearing how they arrived at a place to put themselves into a talent competition can sometimes be a fascinating story. When I hear about the difficult time a singer had through their childhood, where the only comfort they had was listening and singing to music, my heart goes out to them. I am sure the television producers might add a little spin to their stories, but at their core there is a level of pain that is undeniable. To see them take the stage, overcoming their past hardships, fills me with a sense of joy. It ties into my belief system of one should always hang onto one’s dreams. I guess it begins with one believing in themselves. Due to my belief system, I fell in love with this sport drama movie. And that includes not being an avid follower of basketball.      ALMOST EVERYONE IN THE WORLD IS familiar with Air Jordan shoes. The reason they came into being was because of a small group of determined individuals who refused to stop believing. With Matt Damon (The Last Dual, Stillwater) as Sonny Vaccaro, Jason Bateman (Thunder Force, Ozark-TV) as Rob Strasser, Ben Affleck (The Tender Bar, The Accountant) as Phil Knight, Chris Messina (Ruby Sparks, Argo) as David Falk and Chris Tucker (Silver Linings Playbook, Rush Hour franchise) as Howard White; this story based on true events was directed by Ben Affleck and he did a superb job of it. The pacing and great casting gave this story its extra punch. Everyone from Matt to Viola Davis was so good and believable that I found myself enthralled with the story line. In fact, there were several scenes filled with a tense thrilling sensation that made this an exciting movie watching experience. The story was amazing to me, and I especially loved the randomness of it in a way. When the film ended, I had to sit there and imagine what would have happened if one little piece of the story had a different outcome; how would that have changed the trajectory of what became a billion-dollar business? One does not need to be a sports fan to appreciate the work that went into creating this picture with its amazing story.

3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: I Used to be Famous

I KNOW THIS MIGHT NOT BE the right thing to say, but I felt his downfall was karma. He was not a nice person, only when he had to be. Part of the blame belonged to his parents, I believed; but I had never met them. He came from a family that was “well off.” Based on his actions, I had to believe he had a relatively easy life growing up. He was in upper management at a company where I was employed. To one’s face he was polite and jovial; but once you were out of sight, he would say awful things about you. I quickly learned not to trust whatever he said because I caught him lying right to my face. His motivation was money, and he was willing to do whatever he had to, to get the most out of the company. One of his big tricks was to take off early or come in late without telling anyone. He must have become emboldened by no one questioning him because he started taking full days off. It was such an abuse of power that was a drain on the company, in my opinion. Every year he had a new car; I used to joke to my fellow employees that he could afford it because of all the money he saved by always eating some food the company or employees brought in.      WHEN THERE WAS A DOWNTURN IN our sales, the owner decided to make some changes. One of them was to eliminate his position. It was a surprise to the office workers, though most of them were glad to hear the news. I do not know if he was telling the truth or not, but he certainly was trying to save face by telling everyone he was leaving because he was setting up his own company. The joke around my department was we could not wait to see if he would finally put in a full day of work. Whatever he planned, I heard later, did not pan out. He did try to start a similar business; but instead of working to get sales, his focus was getting a fancy car that the company would make the payments on. When everything fell through, we stopped hearing about him. It was a good time later when word went around that his wife divorced him, and he wound up living in a halfway house. The news came in piecemeal, and I am not sure how reliable it was, but we were told he got addicted to drugs and lost everything. It was a stunning downfall. I think those who achieve wealth or status at a young age have a harder time adjusting when things change; you can see for yourself in this comedic, musical drama.      A POPSTAR WHO FELL ON HARD times, finds himself singing on street corners for money. With dreams of returning to the “big stage,” he places his hopes on a young autistic man who started playing drumsticks during one of his songs. With Ed Skrein (The Model, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil) as Vince, Eleanor Matsuura (Wonder Woman, The Walking Dead-TV) as Amber, newcomer Leo Long as Stevie, Eoin Macken (Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, La Brea-TV) as Austin and Lorraine Ashbourne (King Kong, Bridgerton-TV) as Cheryl; this film had a built-in predictability. However, the cast were able to overcome it and provide substance to the story. I enjoyed the music and appreciated how the script respected autism by the way the writers interwove it with the main theme. There were times throughout the film when I found myself rooting the main characters on. I feel this movie is an example of the participants putting in the work to make an enjoyable movie viewing experience for all.

3 stars  

Flash Movie Review: Lou

AT A COMPANY I USED TO work for, there was an employee who retired after being there for forty years. He died six months after he left the company. We were all shocked and saddened by the news. The man had worked there his entire life and after all those years, he finally got the opportunity to go out and enjoy life to the fullest and his life was cut short. It just seemed so wrong. I remember asking him what he was going to do in his retirement, and he said he had no idea; he did not have a plan. For some reason, I wondered if not having a plan contributed to his death. There is one school of thought where people say one must have a plan in place before retiring. The other says do not have a plan, to just go and enjoy whatever you do. I have no idea if one way is better than the other. And based on the people I have known who retired, I cannot say if there was any difference in their level of happiness. They all seemed happy to me. And I love this line that several of them have mentioned, “Every day is Saturday.”      NOW THERE IS ONE INDIVIDUAL I know, who has maintained a steady schedule after their retirement. They signed up for a class at the local community college, they have a standing weekly sports outing with friends, and they usually have one to two lunch dates a week. In other words, they are keeping themselves busy, but not hectic. I know another individual who is at the opposite end of the spectrum who wakes up every day to possibilities. Nothing is generally planned but they do keep in hand a couple of options of things to do. I don’t know if I could be that spontaneous; I believe I would like to have some structure in my retirement years. However, I might not know until the time comes. What I do know is I could not live a retirement like the main character did in this action, crime drama.      HER LIFE OF LIVING IN A quiet retirement radically changed when her neighbor burst into her house to say her daughter was kidnapped. With Allison Janney (Bombshell, Mom-TV) as Lou, Jurnee Smollett (Birds of Prey, The Great Debaters) as Hannah, Logan Marshall-Green (The Invitation, Prometheus) as Philip, Ridley Asha Bateman (Shattered, Shelter in Place) as Vee and Matt Craven (Crimson Tide, Resurrection-TV) as Sheriff Rankin; I was impressed and surprised by Allison’s performance. The idea of her being in an action star role, like let us say Liam Neeson, was a brilliant idea. She was terrific in the role, which was a demanding one. I thought everyone in the cast did a great job as the script kept them moving. This was a necessary qualification since the script was partially predictable. For the most part, the action was kept at a certain level that kept me interested but did not wow me in any way, except for a couple of good fight scenes. I honestly do not know if I would have been as interested in the story if Allison was not part of the cast. There was however a twist in the story that totally took me by surprise. This was one of those movies that I refer to as a “popcorn film.” It is one that the viewer should not take too seriously, but it does provide a decent level of entertainment. There were several scenes of blood and violence.

2 ½ stars 

Flash Movie Review: Navalny

IT DOES NOT MATTER TO ME what a person is passionate about, it is the fact they are truly passionate about it that makes me admire them. I knew someone who collected porcelain dolls. In their house, they had display cases of them in the living room and den, along with a smattering of them perched on various shelves throughout the house. It was a little too eerie for me, but listening to her describe the craftsmanship and history of the dolls was interesting enough for me to appreciate her passion. I had never seen such a variety of dolls; some dressed in elaborate Victorian style garb, others in clothing native to their heritage. I wondered at some point how it was walking into the house at nighttime and seeing a sea of reflective eyes peering out from the darkness. Her enthusiasm reminded me of the time I was into votive candle holders. It was after I moved into a single-family home and received a housewarming gift of one that spurred me on to start collecting various holders that would play with the reflective light coming from the flame. My point about all of this is to commend a person’s energy, drive and commitment to submerge themselves into something meaningful to them.      THIS BRINGS TO MIND AN ACQUAINTANCE of mine. We became friendly when our paths kept crossing at various events around the city, besides having mutual friends. He worked for an organization that promoted equal rights, starting out as an office manager. From there, he became a spokesman for them and that is where he found his true passion. He threw himself into election campaigns, trying to get candidates in office whose values aligned with his organization. I remember at one debate he was involved in where the opposition was using a passage of the bible to make a point. You should have seen him when he went on the attack over that comment. He informed the opposing person that he originally was in the priesthood, and he knew for a fact what the person recited was not exactly how it was written in the bible. The crowd went wild with cheers as my friend tore through the other guy’s platform he was running on, pointing out examples of narrow-mindedness and prejudices. I was in awe of his debating skills and knowledge. Just as I admired the spokesman, I quickly grew to appreciate the man’s passion in this Oscar winning documentary.      DESPITE KNOWING HOW DANGEROUS IT WAS to take on the country’s leader, Alexi Navalny refused to stay silent about his beliefs. Doing so would make him an easy target in the government’s eyes. Directed by Daniel Roher (Once Were Brothers, Ghosts of our Forest), this Academy Award winner for Best Documentary was part thriller, part comedy and part tragedy. There were a few scenes that had to be seen to be believed, as they say. I could see why Alexi has the followers he has because of his charismatic wit and passion. This documentary follows Alexi and his family in a straightforward manner, almost as a bystander, which I felt allowed the family space to maintain some sense of normalcy in their unreal world. Going into this film, all I knew about Alexi was the fact he was a Russian opposition leader and that was because of the event he was involved in that made worldwide news. Knowing that made certain scenes in this movie stand out in a spectacular way. Also, I believe there is an aspect of this film that makes it relevant and relatable for various world citizens. Though I did not see the other Oscar nominated documentaries, I can understand why this one received the award.

3 ½ stars 

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