Flash Movie Review: Fast X
WHEN I WAS LITTLE, BIG FAMILY dinners were exciting for me. It was there where I had my first taste of coffee; granted, it was a couple of drops in a coffee cup with milk filling up the rest. However, I felt like such a grownup sitting there sipping on my coffee like the adults around me. The family dinner was also the setting where I tasted wine for the first time and made everyone laugh by the sour look on my face after tasting it. The food was always plentiful because relatives would always contribute a side dish or dessert. I along with my cousins would always sit together. We started out at the “kid’s table” which was a separate folding table, usually covered with some type of water-resistant tablecloth. One adult would oversee us, placing plates of food in front of us and periodically checking to see if we were goofing off. It was not until we reached the middle school years before we would be allowed to sit at the “big” table with the rest of the adults. It was there where the conversations would cover a variety of topics that could cause almost anything from laughter to arguments. It did not matter to me because it was a great learning ground to see how one tells a story, a joke, has a debate or disagreement. AS WE WERE GETTING OLDER, THERE came a time when family members were getting engaged and married. For me, it added a new element into the mix of these family dinners. Suddenly this stranger entered our domain, as the boy or girlfriend of one of my relatives. Having them enter the mix immediately changed the dynamics of the get together. Suddenly individuals were on their best behavior. The language was toned down; in other words, less salty shall we say. Sometimes the person would fit in easily, but other times they would be the only one not laughing at something the rest of us found funny. Of course, some of these boys and girlfriends never lasted; however, if one turned into a fiancée or fiancé then that meant our family dinner would expand to include the future in-laws. There were times where the kid’s table had to be used for adults because there were so many people invited. I found the experience odd. Here were strangers I had never met, sitting and eating with us; it was always a crapshoot. Some could handle our noise level, while others sat there quietly throughout the meal. The more in-laws joining us eventually caused our big family meals to break apart where one sibling and all her offspring would hold their own holiday meal. With all the family connections in this action-packed sequel, I do not know how they could still sit around a dining room table. A SON WHO LOST HIS DRUG LORD father during one of Dominic Toretto’s, played by Vin Diesel (Bloodshot, The Last Witch Hunter), jobs is hellbent on seeking revenge against Dom and his family. With Michelle Rodriguez (The Assignment, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves) as Letty, Jason Statham (The Meg, Spy) as Shaw, Jordana Brewster (Hooking Up, Who Invited Charlie?) as Mia and Tyrese Gibson (Dangerous, Black and Blue) as Roman; this crime adventure film was a mixed bag for me. The movie had all the elements that go into this franchise: fast cars, unbelievable stunts, intense fighting, explosions, scantily dressed women, dancing and speeches. It was too much for me. I felt the script was designed to incorporate everything that had been used before in the previous sequels. This does not mean there were not times where it was exciting to watch the action; but I was starting to feel that this franchise had run its course. This picture was only the first half of the story; there will be another film coming out which explains the extra scene in the middle of the ending credits. If you like cars and car chases and are invested in the characters, then you will have an easier time watching this movie. There were many scenes with blood and violence.
2 ½ stars
Flash Movie Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
THE TICKETS WERE MORE THAN I like to spend for live theater, but the recommendation I got was glowing for this production. A friend raved about this pre-Broadway production that was stopping here for a trial run before heading to New York; they said I had to see it. I get a kick out of seeing a play or musical before its Broadway run because the tickets are a whole lot cheaper, and I enjoy being first to discover something that becomes a major sensation afterwards. The night of the performance, a small group of us got dressed up and went out to dinner before curtain time. When we finally arrived at the theater, it looked like a mob scene. There were people everywhere, taking selfies in front of the theater posters and marquee. We bypassed all of it to make our way inside the theater lobby. By the time we settled into our seats, the theater lights flashed on and off to signal to all those standing it was time to get seated. And right on time the lights went off and the production began. It was staged beautifully, with elaborate sets and dramatic lighting. There were parts that were amusing, but to be honest, I was bored through parts of it. For everything my friend praised about this play; I had a different reaction. I did not get it at all, and I already was regretting the amount of money I spent to come see it. Just one big disappointment. IT IS BECAUSE OF THINGS LIKE that, I am hesitant to recommend anything. I am sure you have experienced going to a restaurant where someone told you to try and discover you did not care for the meal. Or try a new food item from the grocery store and your reaction differs from the person who told you about the product. Taste is such a personal thing; we all have different combinations of taste buds, where some people think an item is too salty and others feel it is too sweet. When I suggest a restaurant place to someone, I always preface it with my food issues, such as not liking spicy, or heat infused food. I also do not like gooey types of food. My pizza must be well done; if it comes to the table looking wet with oil and the cheese ready to slide off the crust, I will not eat it. So, you can see, this is why I tell people my taste preferences, to lessen the chance of disappointment. On a similar note, I found myself in this situation. Having heard so much about the Dungeons & Dragons game, I was all prepared to have a great time watching this action, adventure comedy. DESPARATE TO REVIVE HIS DECEASED WIFE, a thief plots to steal a lost relic to help in his quest. He soon discovers he cannot accomplish it on his own. With Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, Don’t Worry Darling) as Edgin, Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious franchise, Widows) as Holga, Rege-Jean Page (The Gray Man, Bridgerton-TV) as Xenk, Justice Smith (Paper Towns, Pokemon: Detective Pikachu) as Simon and Sophie Lillie (It franchise, Gretel & Hansel) as Doric; this fantasy film confused me. Keeping in mind I was not familiar with the game this film is based on, I felt lost many a time. For the first half, I was bored multiple times. On the plus side, the movie was visually stimulating as well as creative. I enjoyed the cast, especially the chemistry between Chris and Michelle. There were parts of the story I did not understand; maybe because I never played the game. Not until the last half of the story, did things pick up for me. The fight scenes were fun and well-choreographed. And the special effects were well done. I wished I would not have been as disappointed as I was with this picture. For me, it has potential for creating a better sequel. There was one brief extra scene during the ending credits.
2 ½ stars
Flash Movie Review: The Mother
WAITING TO CHECK OUT MY SCHOOL supplies, I saw something that changed my opinion about motherhood. In the next line stood a mother holding a crying baby. I had no reason to assume she was not the mother. She tried calming the child by gently bouncing her up and down, while making soft cooing sounds. I was wondering why the mother did not give the baby bottle she had in her hand to her child just as she brought it closer to her other hand to unscrew the top. Placing the bottle on the edge of the conveyor belt, she contorted her arm back to grab something out of her large canvas bag that was slinged over her shoulder. I could not believe what she pulled out of that bag; it was a bottle of cola. She quickly took off the cap and poured the soft drink into the baby bottle. I had to look around to see if anyone else was seeing what I was watching; it was the most incredible thing I had ever seen. The mother closed the baby bottle and stuck the nipple into the baby’s mouth. I thought the baby would spit out the carbonated liquid, but I was wrong. The baby calmed down and sucked away on that bottle, like the way I imagined a sugar addict would do it. I wondered if Dr. Spock would have approved. FROM THAT EARLY SINGLE INCIDENT, I realized not every woman is cutout for motherhood. I have encountered many women who were outstanding mothers. There was the mother who surprised her music-loving child with tickets to their very first rock concert, because she wanted to further encourage her child’s interest in music. On the other hand, I heard about the mother, who was attending the parent/teacher conferences at her son’s school, when the teacher mentioned the child’s disappointing testing scores and the mother exclaimed, she was screwed (the actual comment is not printable here). The mother was more concerned about the optics of having a child who is struggling in certain areas instead of focusing on finding the proper resources to help her son succeed. Her actions as told to me simply reinforced my belief that just having a baby doesn’t qualify a woman to be a mother. It takes a special person with a special skill set. It does not even have to be as skilled as the mother in this action thriller, but it certainly could not hurt. HAVING BEEN FORCED TO GIVE UP her child at birth, a single mother had to resign herself to a quiet life of solitude. That life would rapidly change when she found out her daughter was being targeted by someone from her past. With Jennifer Lopez (Shotgun Wedding, Marry Me) as The Mother, Lucy Paez (The Exorcism of Carmen Farias, Silencio) as Zoe, Omari Hardwick (Army of the Dead, Sorry to Bother You) as Cruise, Joseph Fiennes (Risen, The Handmaid’s Tale) as Adrian and Gael Garcia Bernal (Old, The Motorcycle Diaries) as Hector; this drama had a decent premise and a committed lead star with Jennifer. Granted even in a fight scene her makeup and outfits looked fine, but I did appreciate her effort in making the fight scenes look believable. My issue with this picture was the script. It was a good idea but came across as a series of cliches; it was easy figuring out what was going to happen next. I felt there could have been more given to the characters, both emotionally and historically. And of course, there were a few scenes that came across as non-believable. It was not lost on me that this film debuted Mother’s Day weekend because it really showed an intense example of a mother’s love. There were several scenes filled with blood and violence.
2 ½ stars
Flash Movie Review: Chupa
WE WERE ATTENDEES AT A SEMINAR, where we were paired up for the exercise demonstration portion. I have usually found when one does physical exercise with a stranger, it becomes easier to carry on a friendly conversation with them. So, during the lunch break we sat together after getting our meal. He had an accent which piqued my curiosity. Asking him about his family’s heritage, he expressed his uncomfortableness with his language skills and his background. Not one for being shy about such things, I asked him why. He told me about leaving his home country and friends when he was thirteen years old and how he had a hard time fitting into school here because of his speech. I sympathized with him; thirteen was a tough age to be making a major change. If he had arrived before the age of eleven, he would not have an accent; at least that is what I was told. If one learns a new language before the age of eleven, they will not have an accent; after eleven, then they will have one. I do not know why but I have tested it and so far in the few people I questioned, it has been proved correct. IT TOOK SOME COAXING FOR HIM to open about his life back in his home country. I shared some of my family history, making a point of talking about the culture and the famous people who came from the land of my ancestors. Telling him that previous generations of my family had to flee their homeland due to bigotry and persecution seemed to have an affect on him. He told me he was afraid to use his birth name when he arrived in this country, so he chose an American one instead. His family had left their homeland because his parents realized he and his siblings would have had no future or chance of reaching their dreams. I congratulated his parents for making that decision because I knew it had to be a tough one. For the remainder of our lunch break, he seemed more relaxed and open; feeling comfortable enough to share some memories from his country. I was an avid listener since I am always fascinated learning about different cultures and customs. With the lunch hour ending, we cleaned up and headed back to our place in the conference room. The afternoon portion of the seminar was informative. At the end of the day, he thanked me for reminding him how his past plays a part in his future. A similar situation took place in this family, adventure fantasy. BEING SENT TO HIS GRANDFATHER IN Mexico for the summer was the last thing Alex, played by Evan Whitten (Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, The Resident-TV), wanted to do. He was already trying to be less Mexican. With Damian Bichir (The Hateful Eight, Godzilla vs. Kong) as Chava, Christian Slater (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Mr. Robot-TV) as Richard Quinn, newcomer Ashley Ciarra as Luna and newcomer Nickolas Verdugo as Memo; this action drama was a sweet movie. There was nothing new or different compared to other films in this genre; however, the blend of cultures and family intertwined into the story about a mythical being kept my attention throughout the film. I thought Damian did a wonderful job of acting and appreciated the way the writers made the characters real. Now, they could have done more which would have given the story a deeper wealth of things to connect with, but I was okay with the lightness of the script. Compared to other similar films, I do not know how memorable this one will be; but, for an easy family friendly film you cannot go wrong with watching this one.
2 ½ 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: Triangle of Sadness
I THOUGHT THEY WERE “WELL OFF” based on what their house looked like. It was not a mansion by any means, but I think the term is “well appointed.” They always had the latest kitchen appliances and electronic gizmos. The front and back of their house had a variety of flowers and greenery, though I never saw anyone from their household working or maintaining it. I only became aware of their financial status when they threw a huge celebration party for one of their children. The event was held in a grand ballroom in a luxurious hotel in the heart of the city. The room had been decorated to look like a forest/jungle, with bushes in various sizes lining the walls along with intricate, lush green vines coming down the walls. Every dinner table had a different centerpiece, each looking like a piece of art. Some of them looked like statuaries in various materials such as metal, glass and ceramic; other tables had floral arrangements with ice, water or candles as part of the display. I did not know where to look first. Scattered through the ballroom were various food carts with servants at attention ready to assist the guests. My table was just off to the side of the dance floor that was created with colored glass blocks. I could only imagine what else would be in store for the evening. WITH SO MUCH ACTIVITY TAKING PLACE at the start of the meal, I excused myself so I could go to the bar and get a soft drink. While standing there, I saw my friend’s mother was at the head of the line, intently talking to the bartender. I could not hear every word she was saying, but I could tell she was not happy about something. After I finally got my drink, I was walking back and crossed paths with the mother again; she was talking to a waiter and from what I was hearing, she was unhappy. To me it sounded like she was talking down to the waiter, who by the way had a look of fear on his face. I kept walking and bumped into the father of my friend, who was demanding something from what I figured was a manager of the establishment. Again, I overheard the conversation and wound up feeling bad for the worker because of the way the father was speaking to him. Granted, I was not privy to the details; but, I could not imagine something so egregious took place that warranted speaking in such a tone. It made me wonder if having money made a person talk in that type of fashion; I thought I might get an answer while watching this Oscar nominated comedic drama. WHEN A COUPLE OF FASHION MODELS find themselves on an intimate boat cruise with a group of wealthy individuals, they expected to have a peaceful luxurious ride. Instead, they found themselves fighting for survival. With Harris Dickinson (Beach Rats, Where the Crawdads Sing) as Carl, Charlbi Dean (Don’t Sleep, Spud franchise) as Yaya, Dolly de Leon (Verdict, Cuddle Weather) as Abigail, Zlatko Buric (Pusher franchise, 2012) as Dimitey and Iris Berben (Eddie the Eagle, Crossroads) as Therese; this movie had a good point to make. However, it took so long to make it that I lost interest halfway through the film. There were some funny scenes that made me laugh out loud, however, there also was a predictability to several scenes. Things started to get better in the last half of this picture; but by that time, I did not care. Also, I still am perplexed on how this picture was nominated for the best picture category. Sure, there was a good dose of satire and humor; but it felt safe to me. I thought a thorough rewrite would have created a tighter script and more focused deep dive to mine a fuller story with more outrageous characters.
2 ½ stars
Flash Movie Review: Knock at the Cabin
IT HAD TO BE THE HARDEST decision in the world; I could not think of anything worse. I was watching the news report about an accident involving a father and his two sons. They were on vacation, and something happened to the vehicle they were driving in. There were no details yet about what caused the vehicle to go off the road, but it wound up plunging down an embankment and into a rush of turbulent rapids. The young boys and their father were stranded in the water apart from each other at some point. Purely on instinct, the father made his way towards his children. However, with the strong current dragging the boys further apart from one another, the father was being forced to decide which son to head for first, to try and save. I could not even imagine! How could anyone make such a decision? I was grateful there was not a video of the scene; only thing the news report showed was the mangled vehicle in the water. Sadly, the father was only able to grab and save one son. The other boy was dragged under the water and was found a distance away near the edge of the river, face down. He did not survive. THAT STORY STUCK WITH ME FOR some time. Just the idea of having to choose, whether one wanted to or not, which family member to save was such a horrific position to be in; I honestly do not know what I would have done if I was in that type of situation. I do know what can happen when one has to make that type of decision, however. A friend of mine has a relative who caused an accident in the car she was driving. Her two children were strapped in the back seat. She had trouble undoing the seatbelt from one child’s safety seat. By the time she was able to free that child from their seat, the fire had spread past the front seat of the car. Though the temperature was getting intense, she tried to undo the second child’s seat. Her sleeves caught fire a few seconds before it spread to her arms. She kept trying but the heat got to be too intense and a policeman who arrived at the scene had to pull her back in case the car was about to explode. With the loss of her 2nd child, she turned to drugs and alcohol to numb her grief and pain. As I said, it was such a tragedy that she could never recover from. Because of my knowing about this, I completely understood the predicament the couple found themselves in inside this horror, mystery thriller. THE SETTING WAS PERFECT FOR THE family to have an idyllic vacation; but it all changed when there was a knock at the door. With Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Glass Onion) as Leonard, Jonathan Groff (The Matrix Resurrections, Glee-TV) as Eric, Rupert Grint (Harry Potter franchise, Into the White) as Redmond, Nikki Amuka-Bird (Jupiter Ascending, Persuasion) as Sabrina and Ben Aldridge (Our Girl-TV, Pennyworth-TV) as Andrew; this movie was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan (Old, The Visit). I thought Dave Bautista was a standout in this cast, playing a character that the audience could not tell was sincere or not. There were scenes that were excellently staged to keep the tension and thrills high; but, there were also spots that did not reach the same level due to the script. A majority of the time I was focusing more on myself, whether I believed what I was seeing was true or not. Also, the last quarter of the film turned weird for me, to the point where I left the theater feeling confused. There were a few scenes of violence and blood, though I appreciated the way they were filmed to prevent the audience from seeing the full results from the actions. I picked this movie to go see; maybe I did not make the smartest choice.
2 ½ stars
Flash Movie Review: Plane
I LOOKED OVER AT THE PERSON playing a video game on their phone and wondered how they would help in a crash. They were small in stature and appeared to still be in college. Looking in the opposite direction, I looked at the person sitting by the window. Hopefully, I am not sounding judgmental; but they looked like they had been in their senior years for some time. I wasn’t sure if they were staring out the airplane window or dozing. All of us were sitting in the emergency row; my main reason was for the extra legroom. Before we had taken off, the flight attendant came over to ask each of us if we understood what was required in the case of an emergency. Each of us had to answer her with a yes or no answer. In all my years of flying on airplanes, I have only witnessed two people who said no to the request. They were asked to take a different seat on the airplane. This may sound weird; but when I find myself sitting in the emergency row, I tend to pay more attention to the other passengers. I am not sure entirely why I do this, but I think I am doing a quick assessment of who might be resistant to following the rules in the case of a crash or emergency landing. I know I would be freaked out, but I do not think I would bolt and forget about helping others get off the plane. THERE WAS ONE FLIGHT I WAS on, where I thought I would find myself assisting the flight attendants in an evacuation. The captain had announced over the speakers that we were headed into a rough patch while they tried to go around a bank of storm clouds. He turned on the seatbelt light and told everyone to hold tight; he would try to get through as fast and as safely as possible. We certainly hit a rough patch because there were a few times where the plane suddenly dropped in altitude. My stomach felt the same as when I am experiencing a sudden drop on one of those huge mega roller coasters. I was tightly gripping the armrests. Gratefully, the captain made good on his promise to get through the bumpy air quickly, though at the time it seemed awfully long. Listening to the chatter among the passengers, it was clear everyone was freaked out. Luckily none of us were on a flight like the one that took place in this action thriller. FORCED TO MAKE AN EMERGENCY LANDING, the pilot of a passenger plane was lucky to have spotted a small patch of land on an island, where he might be able to keep the plane relatively intact and the passengers alive. Unfortunately, there was more danger waiting for them after they landed. With Gerard Butler (Den of Thieves, A Family Man) as Brodie Torrance, Mike Colter (Black and Blue, Luke Cage-TV) as Louis Gaspare, Yoson An (Mulan, Jawbone-TV movie) as Dele, Paul Ben-Victor (The Irishman, Get Hard) as Hampton and Evan Dane Taylor (Castle Falls, The Enemy Within-TV) as Datu Junmar; this was a typical Gerard Butler film. I am not knocking it, but it was easy to figure out what would be taking place in this story. Having said that, I have to say this film was still exciting to watch. Put reason to the side and just go for the ride, would be my suggestion. I did like the variety of scenarios, and thought they kept the story on a steady clip. There was nothing new presented in the script; but if one just wants to experience a couple of easy thrills, then this movie would provide it and in a safe way. There were multiple scenes of blood and violence.
2 ½ stars