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Flash Movie Review: The Last Blockbuster

THE OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE FOND memories the past year has been a challenge for many of us. The ability to be with friends and family was hampered because of the restrictions placed due to the pandemic. I realized this when I tried carryout food from an unfamiliar restaurant for the first time. When I walked into the place to pickup my order, I was struck with the similarities the place had with a restaurant I used to go to when I was growing up. There were orange, fake leather booths along the walls with various sized tables in the middle of the room. They even had the same kind of lighting hanging down that I remembered when I was a kid. They were oversized, circular colored paper lanterns that gave off a subdued warm glow. I was so surprised by the restaurant’s interior that I felt like I had been transported back to my youth, sitting in a booster chair at our neighborhood restaurant. Adding to my memories, was the food I had ordered. When I brought it home and opened all the packages, the aromas and look of the different foods reminded me so much of the food I enjoyed years ago. It was almost like I was having an out of body experience. It was this that made me realize how much I missed not socializing with friends and family over food, let alone just doing things together.      THAT NUDGE OF A MEMORY LED me down a path filled with nostalgia. One weekend I bought one of my favorite childhood cereals. When I was little, I would pour the cereal in a bowl, then fill the bowl up with milk and let it sit for a couple of minutes. I wanted the milk to sweeten up from the sugar that was a major ingredient of the cereal. My favorite thing to do after I had eaten all the cereal was to ladle the remaining sweet milk into my mouth. If I did not have the time, I would just drink the milk right out of the bowl. Weirdly, I can still remember the commercials that aired back then that were for my favorite cereals; favorite meaning any cereal that had sugar. Besides visiting the foods of my childhood, I started going through my photo albums; yes photo albums, that date back to when the only option to take a photograph was the use of a roll of film. There were so many memories stored in my photo albums that the past months seemed to go by faster and easier. And just as things are beginning to open back up around me, I find this documentary to watch that reminded me of one of my favorite pastimes.      BEFORE THERE WAS SUCH A THING as streaming or YouTube, there was a blue and yellow store that was filled with every movie you could ever have imagined. It was my 2ndhome. Narrated by Lauren Lapkus (Jurassic World, Orange is the New Black-TV), directed by Taylor Morden (Here’s to Life: The Story of the Refreshments, Project 88: Back to the Future Too) and written by Zeke Kamm (My Life as a Teenage Robot-TV, The Weird Al Show-TV); this film festival winner was such a treat for me to watch. I cannot tell you how many times I would stop at a Blockbuster store to rent a film. The largest number of movies I rented at one time was 10. If you are at all familiar with the Blockbuster store, then you will enjoy seeing this movie. For those who are not familiar, chances are you will get bored with parts of this picture. There was a repetitive quality to the script, where celebrities like Kevin Smith and Jamie Kennedy were essentially saying the same thing about their experiences going to a Blockbuster store. Still, I had a good time remembering all the things I would do in search of a movie to rent. And I am not going to lie here, but if the opportunity presented itself to me, I would absolutely love to visit this last Blockbuster store.                                                      

2 ½ stars     

Flash Movie Review: Burn Your Maps

I KNEW THEY WERE EXPECTING THEIR baby soon but did not know exactly when. As far as I heard the pregnancy had been going relatively smoothly, just the typical things like swollen ankles and nausea were being experienced. When word finally came that the baby was born, everyone was happy to get the news. Along with the baby’s name, we were told about the baby’s length, weight and their full head of hair. However, along with this news there was a request to hold off calling the family because the baby had some complications that needed to be addressed. As you can imagine, everyone wanted to know what was going on but refrained from asking, respecting the new parents’ wishes. For the next couple of weeks, all of us would ask each other if there was any news about the baby. If one person found out something, the news quickly spread amongst us. I was told the baby was still in the hospital and had gone through a couple of procedures. Upon getting such news my instinct was to reach out to the parents, but they early on reinforced their desire not to be contacted due to their hectic schedule for taking care of the baby’s needs, besides being present for their other child.      AS THE WEEKS PASSED BY WITH little news, everyone’s attention began to wane ever so slightly. Without getting any updates, it felt as if there was this big hole that was slowly getting filled back up with daily living; that is for everyone except the new parents. At some point word came out the baby was being released from the hospital and would be coming home. We were excited by the news but there was an ominous message included with it; the parents requested if everyone would not ask them how the baby was doing. The only thing they shared was that the baby had been born with a genetic defect and would not grow up in a normal way. This was hard to hear; all of us were feeling helpless. We wanted to do something, even if we could send disposable diapers or formula, anything to try and help. Without any direction we were at a loss and could only keep the family in our thoughts and prayers. I could not imagine how the parents were handling the situation without some kind of outlet to vent, talk, scream, whatever needed to be done to try and find some balance in their life. I felt the same way about the married couple in this comedic, drama adventure.     THEIR SON’S OBSESSION WITH MONGOLIA AND belief that he was a goat herder was causing a rift in the family structure. One parent appreciated the vivid imagination, while the other was afraid their son would be ostracized in school. With Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, The Departed) as Alise, Marton Csokas (The Equalizer, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) as Connor, Jacob Tremblay (Room, Wonder) as Wes, Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi, The Million Dollar Arm) as Ismail and Virginia Madsen (Dune, Sideways) as Victoria; this movie survived on the strength of its cast. The acting was excellent, once again I am so impressed with Jacob’s abilities. He just doesn’t take on a character, he becomes them. My issue with this film was the script. I felt the story was uneven due to the swings between the dramatic and comedic scenes. It felt as if the core of the story was getting shortchanged in its development. Also, there were a couple of scenes that seemed farfetched to me. If I did not enjoy watching the cast as much as I did, I am not sure I would have finished watching this picture. On the other hand, being a strong proponent of communicating, I appreciated what the story did to advocate it.

2 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: Bad Trip

WE BECAME FRIENDS IN COLLEGE; HE lived across the hall from me. Both of us disliked the school’s meal plan; so, we had opted out and went grocery shopping every week instead. There was a communal kitchen on our floor and each room was assigned one cabinet. I mostly had cereal boxes, canned goods and peanut butter in mine. But, in one of the 3 refrigerators I usually had a dozen frozen pizzas. During summer semester, I came back home and got a summer job; he remained at school to take extra classes. When we graduated, he already had a job lined up in my hometown. I planned on working at the same company I had been during the summer months, while continuing with my education. I had become friends with some of the employees at the company and we would get together sometimes on the weekends. On one of those occasions my friend joined us. During the whole night out, I had no inkling of my friend’s interest in one of the employees. It was not until we were driving home together when he told me about his attraction to this one employee and wanted me to fix him up. I remember asking him why he didn’t just go up to her and start talking. He told me he was too shy and couldn’t do it. For the next couple of months, it became my responsibility to plan activities/events that included him and her.      BETWEEN MY SCHOOLING, WORK AND SOCIAL director position; I did not know if I was coming or going. My friend was constantly asking me what I was planning next, wanting to make sure he was ready and comfortable to participate. In other words, I could not plan something I wanted to do; it had to be something he approved of first. You might be asking me why I put up with this and to tell you the truth I do not know why. I think a part of me wanted to be a matchmaker so I could always be part of their life story if they became a couple. And if nothing else, I enjoyed being in charge of planning things. Some of the things I planned were bowling, attending comedy clubs, roller skating and going to the movies. Despite all these activities, it took my friend a few months before he built up the courage to ask my fellow employee out on a date. He was so excited when she said yes; the very next day he ran out to buy a new shirt for the date. Sadly, it would be the only time he wore that shirt because when he asked her out again at the end of their evening together, she thanked him and said she would prefer staying just friends. It was tough for him to be vulnerable, just as it was for the main character in this comedy.      A CHANCE MEETING OF HIS HIGH school crush sends Chris Carey, played by Eric Andre (Man Seeking Woman-TV, 2 Broke Girls-TV), on a cross country trip to see her again and tell her how he feels. Taking a road trip with one’s head in the clouds may not make for the easiest of trips. With Michaela Conlin (The Lincoln Lawyer, Bones-TV) as Maria Li, Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, Bird Box) as Bud Malone, Tiffany Haddish (Night School, Like a Boss) as Trina Malone and Charles Green (Richard Jewell, Freaky) as the Priest; this movie had some crazy funny parts if you can get past the crudeness and vulgarity. The script was part love story and part Candid Camera show which was clever. The pranking of innocent bystanders was outrageous at times, to the point I wasn’t sure if they were not in on the joke. I kept wondering how no one recognized the actors. Because of this and some of the choppiness I felt between scenes, it took me some time to get comfortable with what was taking place. If one is not a fan of reality prank shows, then this film would not work for you. If you can deal with the foul language and rawness, then you can find some humorous gems within the story.                                 

2 ½ stars     

Flash Movie Review: Malcolm & Marie

SHE AND I HAD AN ESTABLISHED friendship prior to when she started dating this guy. They seemed compatible to me because I never saw or heard about any drama between them. We would hang out together with a group of friends and he had little trouble fitting in. By the time we were getting ready for college, I was going out of state while she and her boyfriend were going to the same school. During my time away, we still stayed in touch. I heard about the different places they went on the weekends, both of their course loads; in other words, I was getting all the latest information about everyone from her. By the time we were finishing up our undergrad studies, she told me she and her boyfriend were going to get married; it was going to be a small ceremony for their families. I was happy for her. She told me she was going to get a job after college to support the 2 of them while he continued with his studies in law. I was surprised to hear this because I knew she had been planning to continue for a master’s degree. When I asked her about it, she said she was fine postponing her career path until her fiancé got established as a lawyer, then she would return to school.     WELL, IT TOOK A LITTLE LONGER than planned for her husband to graduate with a law degree and pass the bar exam. She never complained about the delay in their timetable. However, she did confine in me that they struggle with living off only one salary. She rarely had time to get together with our mutual friends because she was always tired. The day finally came where he did pass the bar exam and would be able to practice law. He landed a position in a prestigious firm and found himself putting in long hours. She was seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, where she would be able to return to school to pursue her career aspirations. Sadly, after one year of practicing law her husband filed for divorce. She was devastated, especially after everything she sacrificed to allow him to pursue his career. I felt horrible for her and did what I could to help lift her spirits. Weirdly this scenario had crossed my mind because I had seen similar results from other couples, when one of the two achieves a higher level of success. Either one starts to mingle with a different crowd or feels they have risen to a higher socioeconomic status and their partner feels they don’t fit it. The whole thing doesn’t make much sense to me if indeed the couple are truly in love with each other. This is the question I had as I watched the couple in this film festival nominated romance.      RETURNING FROM THE PREMIERE OF HIS first movie, a director and his girlfriend find themselves in two totally different places that would test the bonds of their love for each other. Written and directed by Sam Levinson (Another Happy Day, Euphoria-TV), this dramatic movie starred John David Washington (Tenet, BlacKkKlansman) as Malcolm and Zendaya (The Greatest Showman, Spider-Man franchise) as Marie. The filming of this picture was beautifully done in a black and white palette. I thought the acting was strong and intense by the two actors, where one could feel the chemistry between them. My issue however was with the script. Due to the multiple scenes filled with arguments, watching this film was tedious at times. Granted the two actors were excellent, but I can only listen to so much heated discussion before I want to tune out. In a way, this story seemed as if it could easily transfer to live theater. By the end of this film, I had mixed emotions. I felt I had seen a glimpse of what could go on in the film world, besides many other similar worlds, when success becomes part of a couple’s equation.                                      

2 ½ stars    

Flash Movie Review: Space Sweepers

EVERYONE, I BELIEVE, HAS AT LEAST two families; the family they were born into and the family they formed through life experiences. There are other types of families, for example a foster family. I have a friend who grew up with several foster children because her parents believed in helping innocent children out of bad situations. She had biological siblings but had more foster ones in the household through her years living at home. I was fascinated with her stories about all her siblings. It seemed like every meal was a party, even when her parents did not have much money to buy food. When I was little, I had no idea the friendships I was forming would turn into future members of my chosen family. The term “chosen family” was something I was not aware of when growing up; yet, there are individuals in my chosen family that I have known since elementary school. One is a girl I dated from 7thgrade. When we get together there is a long history of shared events, we can recall for each other. Whenever one of us introduces the other to new people, the new people are always amazed at the longevity of our relationship. There is a comfort and an easiness within our bond of friendship because we do not need to be anything but our real selves to each other.     FROM AN OPEN SWIM NIGHT, AT a local community center in the neighborhood I grew up in, I formed a friendship with a boy from a different elementary school district. He was the first friend I made who did not go to my school. I was at the pool with my friends and he was there with a relative. We had been taking turns diving into the deep end and were congregated by the edge of the pool. He had been swimming the width of the pool a few times when he took a break by the edge near us. One of my friends struck up a conversation and he soon joined our little circle. By the end of the open swim time we all made plans to meet again the following week. Soon after that 2ndswim night, I found out he and I had a lot in common. Though we did not go to the same school we made plans to get together either after school or on a Saturday. After we all graduated elementary school, we found out he would be joining us at the same high school. Since then and after all these years, he has been one of my closest chosen family members. Because of my family of birth and chosen family, I felt a connection to the crew in this action, adventure, science fiction film.      WHILE PICKING THROUGH A CONTAINER OF junk in outer space, a ship’s crew discovers a little girl who was still alive. If that wasn’t surprise enough, the crew would soon find a bigger surprise was in store for them. With Song Joong Ki (A Werewolf Boy, Doraemon-TV) as Tae-ho, Kim Tae-ri (The Handmaiden, Little Forest) as Captain Jang, Seon-kyu Jin (The Outlaws, Extreme Job) as Tiger Park, Hae-jin yoo (The King and the Clown, The Pirates) as Robot and Richard Armitage (The Hobbit franchise, Into the Storm) as Sullivan; this dramatic space odyssey had sound elements for creating an exciting story. For example, I connected with the chosen family element and appreciated the set-up for the class conflict situation. However, the script needed a good rewrite, I found it too long and the use of flashbacks got to be a little too much for me. The special effects were not spectacular, but they were good. Honestly, this movie came across like a poor cousin to a Marvel superhero film; still, there was enough in it that kept my interest going. 

2 ½ stars     

Flash Movie Review: Critical Thinking

IT LOOKED TO ME LIKE A GLASS lighthouse, shining bright in the darkness. The space it was in seemed cavernous to me; there was one complete wall that bowed out of the house to accommodate a baby grand piano. I could be sitting in the dining room yet be able to see the brightly lit curio cabinet in the living room. Whether people were visiting or not, the its light was always on. The cabinet was made of glass and wood that had been washed in a gold paint. The top of it came to a point like a domed roof, with a gold ball that sat right at the pinnacle. There were four glass shelves evenly spaced apart that had a curious mix of things that all fascinated me. However, on the bottom shelf there was a chess set that grabbed my attention the most. Sitting on the thick chessboard were these intricate sculpted ivory pieces my relative called netsukes. I had never seen anything like it. Half the pieces sat on black colored bases and the rest on light colored ones. I would stand at the curio cabinet, its light the only one on in the room, wanting to take the chess pieces out and play with them; but I knew my relative would not approve. The only time I could hold one of the pieces is when my relative took one out and placed it in my hands for only a short moment. Otherwise, they were off limits to everyone.      THAT CHESS SET PLANTED A SEED in me because my infatuation with it caused me to learn how to play the game. I received a gift of a travel sized chess set that looked like a large wallet. When I would unzip the sides of the red vinyl rectangular wallet and fold the sides down, it would reveal a square red and white checkerboard. The chess pieces were magnetic dots with each of their tops embossed with the outline of either a white or black chess piece. Except for my relatives with the curio cabinet, I did not know anyone who played chess; so, I would play against myself. I would try different first moves, wanting to give each magnetic chess piece a turn. Luckily, I was finally able to convince a friend to let me teach him and we started playing a few times a month. It was good practice for me I thought; I just did not know practice for what? I was able to plan a few moves out but not anywhere near what the students in this dramatic movie were capable of doing.      SOME FROM BROKEN HOMES AND OTHERS FROM different backgrounds, a group of inner-city students found one thing in common; they liked being treated equal in Mr. Martinez’, played by John Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge, Spawn), high school classroom. With Rachel Bay Jones (Ben is Back, Grey’s Anatomy-TV) as Principal Kestel, Michael Kenneth Williams (12 Years a Slave, Assassin’s Creed) as Mr. Roundtree, Corwin C. Tuggles (Detachment, Orange is the New Black-TV) and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Bumblebee; Love, Simon) as Oelmy “Ito” Paniagua; this film that was based on a true story provided a feel good experience for me. I thought John was exceptional in his role; he reminded me of a teacher I had back in school. The story did not provide much surprise to it; it followed a typical story line that I have seen before. Set in Miami during the late 90s, I liked the throwback feel of the film. Despite having nothing that stood out as special for me, I thought the story was still moving. And if you decide to see this movie please stay for the credits to see the extra scenes.

2 ½ stars 

Flash Movie Review: Death at a Funeral

PRIOR TO GOING TO THE FUNERAL, I always thought everyone in attendance was there to pay their respects. I must tell you, it startled me when I heard the man sitting next to me tell his companion he was glad the man was dead. You do not often hear those words coming out of someone’s mouth. Out of the corner of my eye, I tried to get a better look at this man’s face to see if I knew him. I was there because I was an employee of the company, doing customer service work for them. The man looked familiar to me, but I could not recall ever talking to him. He was telling the person next to him that the dead man was an awful human being. I wondered if anyone else around us was hearing what this man was saying about the deceased. It was such a weird juxtaposition with family members sniffling and crying near the casket and this man bad mouthing their relative. It was not easy to hear everything he was saying, but I was increasingly curious to hear why this man so disliked the dearly departed that he would actually verbalize his feelings without a filter.      SINCE THAT FUNERAL, I HAVE BEEN a witness to two other funerals where some of the people in attendance had other reasons for being there. This one funeral had so many mourners coming into the funeral home, that several of them had to lean up against the walls because there were no seats left. During the eulogy, something that was said triggered a couple of mourners to stand up and shout at the grieving family members. I was frozen in my seat; it was such a surreal scene playing out in front of me. One of the deceased’s daughters stood up, turned around to face the yelling mourners, and shouted, “You will burn in hell!” I have never forgotten those words and can still picture myself sitting there when they were first uttered. Talk about drama fit for the big screen. The other funeral I attended that was outside the norm was one where family members got into a physical fight that caused them to bump into the casket. There was a huge gasp from the mourners in attendance, fearful that there was a chance the casket would fall off its pedestal. With the help of the funeral home’s employees, the fighting family members were pulled apart and taken out of the room. After having experienced these unusual funeral proceedings, I thought I had seen everything; that is until I watched this film festival winning, dark comedy.      WHEN THE PATRIARCH OF THE FAMILY died, a variety of family members and friends thought the funeral service would be the perfect time to address their concerns. With Matthew Macfadyen (The Three Musketeers, Pride & Prejudice) as Daniel, Keeley Hawes (Line of Duty-TV, Upstairs Downstairs-TV) as Jane, Andy Nyman (Judy, The Commuter) as Howard, Ewen Bremner (Wonder Woman, Trainspotting franchise) as Justin and Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent, Game of Thrones-TV) as Peter; this movie took some time before kicking into gear. The humor was fun and there was an abundance of jokes, but I felt the writers could have tightened up the script more. There was an overall flavor to this film that reminded me of those old British comedy films. With such a large cast, one would have thought several actors would have faded into the background; but that was not the case here. Everyone did their part to carry the story forward, with Alan Tudyk and Andy Nyman as the standouts for me. All things considered, this was a fun film to watch and a better experience for me than the previous funerals I had attended.

2 ½ stars 

Flash Movie Review: I’m Your Woman

MY FRIEND WAS TELLING ME HOW stunned he was when he found out what his mother had done. Through their entire lives, his parents lived frugally; he thought it was out of necessity. It turned out that was not totally correct. His mother handled all the finances, from paying bills to shopping for food. My friend told me his father was given strict instructions on how much he could spend on any replacement clothing or food when he went shopping. Some of the stories my friend would tell me about his parents seemed extreme to me. For example, his mother would continue to wear a sweater or blouse even after it was discolored from age or frayed to the point where a small hole would appear. She never went clothes shopping unless there was no way she could continue to wear an article of clothing, after all the mending she tried to do to it. The thing that surprised me was the fact, according to my friend, his father had no idea how much money he and his wife really had saved. Throughout their entire marriage, the father never once wrote a check. I found this to be the weirdest thing out of all the things my friend told me about his parents.      WHEN I THINK ABOUT OLDER GENERATIONS, I remember how the household was divided between “male” and “female” chores. It was expected the women would clean and cook while the men shoveled snow and mowed the grass. To me, it seemed like 2 separate worlds co-existing together instead of 2 people working in unison to create one world. I never understood why changing a diaper was the mother’s job or washing the car was the husband’s job. As I witnessed the growth of later generations, I noticed a refreshing change in the way married/partnered couples handled the running of their households. Males were now changing diapers or cooking while their significant other would take on the repair of a household item. There is a couple I know who have a near perfect union in the way they managed to remove “male” and “female” labels to the functions of running their home. It would not be unusual for either of them to cook dinner, clean, pay bills or grocery shop. Whoever has available time, takes on the duty and it works beautifully for them. The only area where they are not equal is with their finances. The husband does all the investing of their funds, setting them up for their retirement years. I believe this is an error in judgment because if the husband were to die first, his wife would have no idea how to manage the finances he set up for them. Imagine what kind of trauma his wife would experience. Though the circumstances are a bit different in this crime drama, one can still see the affect it has on a spouse when they are left out of the loop.      FIRST, SHE WAS HANDED A NEWBORN baby, then she was forced to go on the run; all due to her husband’s actions. All Jean, played by Rachel Brosnahan (Patriots Day, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel-TV), wanted was to get answers from her husband. With Marsha Stephanie Blake (See You Yesterday, The Laundromat) as Teri, Arinze Kene (The Pass, Been so Long) as Cal, Frankie Faison (Do the Right Thing, White Chicks) as Art and Marceline Hugot (Working Girl, The Messenger) as Evelyn; the strength of this film was solely placed on Rachel’s performance. I thought she did an excellent job in the role. Set in the 1970s, I enjoyed the sets and costumes in this picture; however, I found the script to be lacking. The first half of the film was slow to me. It was not until the halfway point where things started to pick up and I took more of an interest in Jean’s plight. Also, I liked seeing her growth in the story. Overall, it just seemed as if the writers and director did not talk much to each other when they were creating this disjointed movie.  

2 ½ stars       

Flash Movie Review: Home for the Holidays

FROM THE VARIOUS HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS, I have participated in, this year will provide me with something new. Considering I have been a witness to holiday events that spanned the spectrum from elegant to outrageous, that is saying something. I was invited to a family’s holiday dinner where a fight broke out between 2 sisters at the dining room table. The one sister broke down in tears and ran out of the room; talk about a conversation killer. At another celebration, one of the family’s elders had all the little children sit around the Christmas tree; so, he could tell them the history behind several of the ornaments. That was a wonderful experience because there was a plain, lopsided star shaped, wooden ornament on the tree that had been handed down in the family for generations. I think it was someone like a great, great, great grandparent who had carved the ornament. Listening to the stories behind the tree ornaments was such a cool experience for me and they were not even my own family. As you can see just from these 2 examples, I have been to a variety of family holiday functions and dysfunctions to the point I had thought there was nothing left to surprise me.      HEARING HOW THE PRESENTS WERE TO be distributed made me think a logistics company needed to be involved. One person was waiting for a group of packages to be delivered to their house. Once received, they then had to take them and drive to two family members’ houses to drop them off. At the 2ndstop, after their car trunk was empty, they were to receive a group of presents that they then had to bring back to their house. From there another family member was going to arrive to take half the packages and deliver them to relatives who lived down in the city. Several remaining packages were to be driven to relatives who lived close by. I did not have to be the driver for any of these excursions; I just had to carry the presents to load and unload from the cars that pulled into the garage. Once all the packages get delivered to the intended family members, we are going to do a video call where all of us can see each other opening our presents. I have visions of us looking like the opening credits of the TV show, The Brady Bunch; each of us in our own little tick tock box. This will be a new experience for me, and I am guessing for some of you. At least getting together this way has the potential to cut down on the type of antics that went on amongst the family members in this film festival nominee.      WITHOUT HER DAUGHTER JOINING HER FOR the holiday Claudia Larson, played by Holly Hunter (The Big Sick, Broadcast News) would have to face her family alone. With low expectations, Claudia was hoping there would be little drama she would get pulled into. With Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man franchise, Due Date) as Tommy Larson, Anne Bancroft (The Miracle Worker, The Graduate) as Adele Larson, Charles Durning (Tootsie, Dog Day Afternoon) as Henry Larson and Dylan McDermott (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Olympus Has Fallen) as Leo Fish; this comedic romance drama had the makings of an old fashioned crazy comedy in the same vein as Bringing Up Baby or Arsenic and Old Lace. The acting was excellent from the entire cast as they played a cast of characters. Where this film falters is the unevenness between the scenes. There were some heartfelt dramatic ones that grabbed me, but then there were others that felt flat and predictable. I will say the writers did a decent job with trying to capture all sides of a family gathering. On a positive note, after seeing this film I am looking forward to having a video family gathering, that comes with a mute button. A safe and happy holiday season I wish to all of you.                      

2 ½ stars 

Flash Movie Review: Hillbilly Elegy

I WAS GREETED AT THE DOOR by 2 overly excited dogs. They were sisters who my friends adopted when they were puppies. Being familiar with me, they were happy to see me because they knew I was the one who gave them body massages; well, at least that is what I hoped they thought. Whenever I would tell the two of them it was time for a doggie massage, the chocolate colored dog would lie down on her side, in preparation for her massage; the vanilla colored dog remained standing with this quizzical look on her face as she continued to watch me. I would have to gently hold her as I brought her down onto her side and even then, she would try to get back up. It was only when I started rubbing her side that she would calm down and relax, allowing me to continue my ministrations. The other dog did nothing but wait there for me to massage her. It was quite comical. This was not the only difference between the sisters. It was easy to fake out the vanilla colored sister. I could pretend to throw one of their toys across the room and the vanilla sister would run down the length of the room looking for the toy. The other dog was too smart and would stay in place with this look of anticipation on her face, as if telling me to throw the toy already. Two dogs from the same litter, yet so different.      I REALLY WAS NOT SURPRISED BY one dog being smarter than the other. The same type of thing has happened in human families, I have noticed. I knew two brothers who had 4 years difference between their ages. The younger brother was the smarter one who got good grades and achievement awards. The older brother’s school grades were a mishmash of passing and failing grades. He also got in trouble a lot. Now you would think 2 boys being raised in the same house under the same conditions would be more similar, but it was not the case. I have always been curious about this disparity between family members. There is this family I know where the parents only had a high school education. Their focus was staying employed; they did not read anything or try to learn something new. Their only son received zero encouragement from them since his aspirations for higher education were a foreign concept. I do not know whether it was despite or because of his parents, but early on he displayed high intelligence which was quickly noted by his teachers. Where his parents could barely write a clear sentence, he became the editor of his elementary school’s newspaper, besides being a winner in state driven English contests. This type of dynamic is something I find so fascinating, which is why I was intrigued with this dramatic film.      WHILE ATTEMPTING TO GET AN INTERVIEW lined up, Yale law student J.D. Vance, played by Gabriel Basso (Super 8, The Kings of Summer), found himself being pulled into his Appalachian family’s drama back home in Ohio. With Amy Adams (Arrival, Big Eyes) as Bev, Glenn Close (The Wife, Alfred Nobbs) as Mamaw, Haley Bennett (Music and Lyrics, The Girl on the Train) as Lindsay and Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire, Immortals) as Usha; this movie based on a true story was all about the acting. I thought the cast was outstanding and felt Glenn could get nominated for her role. The story is surprising I grant you; however, I thought the script was not as strong as it needed to be to support the story. There was an element of predictability and at times I felt there was too much melodrama inserted into the scenes; I would have preferred learning more about each character on a deeper level. Despite these misgivings, my interest did not waiver as I observed the dynamics in this generational family story.                                                   

2 ½ stars

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