Blog Archives

Flash Movie Review: Victoria & Abdul

WHEN ONE IS BORN into a majority that person’s awareness of the issues facing someone who was born into a minority may be skewed. The news this week reported on a former sports coach who made comments to the effect that he has not been aware of any racial oppression for the past several decades. Rather startling wouldn’t you say considering the multitude of events that are being shown by the news agencies. I tried to find some rationale to this person’s comments and the only thing I can come up with is maybe they do not read or watch the news; or another possibility may be the coach lives in a gated community where all the residents are the same. I honestly cannot come up with any valid reason for a person to make those types of comments.     TWIN GIRLS WERE BORN to a mixed race married couple. One girl was fair skinned where one would think she was Caucasian. The other twin was extremely dark skinned to the point a person would assume she was black. I remember the 2 girls had a hard time in college of all places. The light skinned twin was treated completely different than her sister; it upset them and their parents tremendously. My awareness regarding this issue really came to the forefront when I was with friends or dates whose skin did not match mine. It was subtle at times; for example at restaurants there were times I noticed people, who were seated after us, getting waited on before us. There were some workers in the service industry who acted differently when interacting with my friend or date. I was appalled by such actions. How and why in the world would someone treat another person differently solely based on their looks? Whether it was skin color, appearance or religious attire; I had a hard time processing this type of prejudice. Since I am just an average person my experiences would not be considered newsworthy; imagine though what it must have been like for someone of royalty. You will find out when you see this film festival winning, dramatic movie based on a true event.     NO ONE IN THE ROYAL court could understand why Queen Victoria, played by Judi Dench (Skyfall, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel franchise), took a liking to the lowly Indian servant Abdul Karim, played by Ali Fazal (3 Idiots, Furious 7). In fact they would not tolerate it. The reason this historical biography worked was due to Judi Dench. There is something about her that immediately grabs the viewer and brings them into her character. With Tim Pigott-Smith (Gangs of New York, Alice in Wonderland) as Sir Henry Ponsonby, Eddie Izzard (Absolutely Anything, Hannibal-TV) as Bertie the Prince of Wales and Michael Gambon (Harry Potter franchise, Sleepy Hollow) as Lord Salisbury; the cast was well rounded, but still Judi and Abdul were the main focus. My enjoyment of this film was based on the history of the story; the message about tolerance and acceptance easily could be applied today. There were however some scenes that did not ring as true as the others. I would have preferred more depth into the Queen’s relationship with Abdul, along with more dramatic intensity for the rest of the cast. Maybe my slight disappointment was due to the writers falling into comedic flair at times instead of giving me a meatier, more compelling story. I will say I wish there were more people today who had Queen Victoria’s beliefs.

 

2 ¾ stars        

Advertisements

Flash Movie Review: Menashe

“THAT IS THE way it has always been done,” is a response that I have had a love/hate relationship with for a majority of my life. On one hand I am of the mindset “if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.” In other words if things are working fine then do not make any changes. Having lived this way for a long period of time, I am challenged when it comes to making changes. Since I am not a spontaneous type of person, you can imagine how stressful it is for me when my routine is altered. But on the other hand, there have been times in my adult life where I survived a change and found out it made an improvement. One example would be changing from using multiple charge cards for making various purchases to only using one card; I saved time by only having to pay one bill a month instead of several. So I am aware some change is good.     AN AREA WHERE change comes slowly is religion. Not that I am an expert by any means but I have seen where some traditions have been updated. I am referring to both the religion I was born into along with other ones I have been exposed to via friends and family. There are some traditions that I admit seem odd to me. Maybe in a different time they made sense but to my sensibilities they appear to have little relevance to the current world. I remember a time where only males led a service; the first time I saw a female do it, I recall how some in the congregation were, shall we say, uncomfortable. Personally I did not think it was a big deal since I always felt everyone had the right to communicate to a higher power the way they saw fit. I do not believe one person has an inside track to their God’s ear. It can be a struggle for some people; it was obvious in this dramatic film festival winning movie.     LIVING IN AN ultra-orthodox community in Brooklyn widower Menashe, played by newcomer Menashe Lustig, was being told he could not raise his son Fischel, played by Yoel Falkowitz (The Hudson Tribes), without a mother. Menashe wanted to prove them wrong. With newcomers Ruben Niborski, Meyer Schwartz and Yael Weisshaus, this picture at times seemed more like a documentary than a fictional story. The emotions portrayed by the cast came across as real, with several touching scenes throughout the movie. Some viewers may be totally unfamiliar with what is being portrayed on screen; I do not think it will have an impact on following the story. Speaking of the story, I found this one interesting as it touched on religious beliefs, parenting, family and childrearing. I could see it easily becoming a topic of conversation for viewers afterward. My issue with the script was the lack of dramatic variance. It felt like the scenes remained in a certain pocket of intensity. At one point I was losing interest because it seemed as if the same scenario was repeating itself. Because I enjoy getting exposed to different religious traditions, I still had a curiosity about the unfolding story. Yiddish was spoken with English subtitles.

 

2 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Logan Lucky

SLIGHTLY BELOW AVERAGE height, you would not associate them with unusual let alone average strength. Bespectacled and unassuming, the couple easily blends into a crowd of people without any effort. As they say “looks can be deceiving” and with this couple no truer words have been spoken. For all of their quiet, mild mannered appearances no one would ever guess they both were experts in the martial arts. The only way one would even know that about them would be if you saw them mentoring the students in their classes. Dressed in their off white colored short pants and jacket with a black belt tightly tied around the waist, the two of them periodically demonstrate defensive movements. The speed of their punches and kicks nearly defies nature; they are precise and quick. For some people who would have such skills, they would telegraph it via their enlarged confidence and mannerisms; but for this tiny duo, they conduct their daily life with a sense of peace and calmness.     I AM ALWAYS amazed by the amount of people who make assumptions about other people based solely on their outer appearances. And it seems like more and more people are doing that these days. I do not know if it has anything to do with our society’s desire for instant gratification that causes people to make snap judgments; but it seems as if less people want to take the time to learn about another person. It still amuses me to this day when someone finds out what I do for a living and activity. Either they think I am too nice to do one job or not buff enough to do the other job. Think about it; imagine someone freely telling you, you do not look fit enough to teach fitness. I do not believe this would fall into the compliment category; it does not bother me, I find it amusing and rather enjoy seeing the confusing looks given to me. To see what I mean feel free to check out this comedic crime drama directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven franchise, Traffic).     AFTER LOSING HIS job Jimmy Logan, played by Channing Tatum (Magic Mike franchise, Jupiter Ascending), hashed out a plan to make his life easier and richer. He would just need help from strangers to pull it off. With Adam Driver (Silence, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as Clyde Logan, Daniel Craig (Defiance, Cowboys & Aliens) as Joe Bang, Katie Holmes (Batman Begins, Phone Booth) as Bobbie Jo Chapman and Riley Keough (American Honey, We Don’t Belong Here) as Mellie Logan; the cast overall was fine in this film, though Daniel Craig was the stand out performer for me. His character was so different from what most of us “assume” him to be. I enjoyed the mix of characters in this story along with the side by side story lines; however, I have to tell you I was underwhelmed by this picture. With the buzz about Steven coming out of retirement and the favorable reviews I saw afterwards, I was left with a feeling of light amusement and enjoyment. For some reason the movie came across in a monotone way, without deep emotions attached to it. Some additional background information would have been helpful, but still I just felt I was watching a series of vignettes. It wasn’t like I assumed I was seeing a laugh out comedy or intense drama; I just thought, “Isn’t that a surprise.”

 

2 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Glass Castle

THE ONLY PEOPLE who were embarrassed by the couple’s accents were their children. To everyone else the mother and father talked that way because they were European. As far as I knew there was no derogatory intent by saying someone was European, Asian or by some other region of the world. For me I was intrigued with the fact that a friend would have a living relative from a different country; since most of mine had come to the United States either at birth or were dead by the time I was born. Some of the children were able to speak to their parents in their native tongue but they only wanted to do so when no one else was around. It is funny though; by the time these kids reached the grade levels were a foreign language was required in school, they usually got top grades. I would be lying if I did not say I was a bit envious since I struggled with the language I chose to learn.     THERE COMES AN age in a child’s life where I think it is natural for them to feel embarrassed at times by their parents’ actions. I think it is just a generational thing, like styles of clothing or genres of music. Each generation wants to own something unique to them that was not from their parents’ generation. Hanging out at a friend’s house, it was not unusual for a parent to come check on us. However, some parents would ask questions or try to fit into our conversation. At this point the parent’s child would do or say something to try to get their parent to leave. I remember one parent who would come into the basement where we were listening to music and try to dance to it. This always produced a groan from their son or daughter. In the scheme of things, compared to what was shown in this dramatic film based on a true story, dancing around would be the very least thing to be embarrassed about.    GROWING UP IN a constant state of change and disarray had effected the children of Rex and Rose Mary, played by Woody Harrelson (War for the Planets of the Apes, Wilson) and Naomi Watts (The Book of Henry, Demolition), in ways that would last for a lifetime. This biographical film also starred Brie Larson (Free Fire, Room) as Jeannette, Ella Anderson (The Boss, Mother’s Day) as a young Jeanette and Max Greenfield (The Big Short, New Girl-TV) as David. The story was so bizarre to me that I wondered if the scenes I was seeing really happened in the life of this family. I thought the acting was wonderful, especially from Woody and Brie. At first I was not too crazy about the jumping back and forth in time method, but realized at some point it made better sense to tell the story that way. It emphasized the way the adult versions were acting in their scenes. The issue I had with this picture was the latter part; it seemed as if things were tied up in a quick and easy way. Having not read the book, it just came across as not having the realness of the other parts of the story. I almost want to say it was being painted with a happier ending just to please the movie goers. The book I am willing to bet is more intense than this film. Not that anyone needs to be embarrassed with the final product here; the story still is unbelievable and in my opinion sets a different standard for defining a dysfunctional family.

 

2 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

HOW MANY REGRETS were the result of placing incorrect bets? If one is gambling at a casino, the person knows there is a chance they will lose their money. Based on the route a person chooses to travel to work that day may be the wrong route because they were delayed due to construction work. So let me say there are bets we all make where we know exactly how much we can lose on them. What about placing a bet where one does not know what they could sacrifice if they made the wrong bet? I watched a TV show about a family that decided to travel out of state in the middle of winter to celebrate a relative’s birthday. The areas they would be driving through typically get a lot of snow during winter. They wound up traveling during a snowstorm and became stuck in a desolate area for several days, with little food and water and freezing temperatures. They almost died in their car after it ran out of gasoline.     WHEN I WAS younger I used to take more chances. As I have gotten older I have become more cautious. I prefer knowing, like most of us I am sure, what the risks are before taking a chance. Now I am not here to start a debate on whether you believe or not climate change is taking place. What I will say is I do not recall experiencing the type of weather we have now compared to when I was younger. Recently the area I live in was subjected to a series of heavy rainstorms. A relative posted a picture of the cul-de-sac they live on and I was shocked. Picture 4 houses placed in a semi-circle perched above the cul-de-sac with driveways that sloped down into it. The cul-de-sac was filled with water all the way up each driveway to the bottom of their mailboxes. No one could get out unless they had a boat or raft; it was a surreal scene, especially since they never experienced anything like it before. Something is not right as this sequel to the Oscar winning documentary will show you.     THIS FILM FESTIVAL winner is an update to the 2006 winner, An Inconvenient Truth. Directed by Bonni Cohen (The Rape of Europa, Audrie & Daisy) and Jon Shenk (Lost Boys of Sudan, The Island President), this documentary follows former Vice President Al Gore as he travels the world discussing the changes he has noticed from a decade ago. It appears as if the directors had easy access to Mr. Gore as they filmed him in a variety of settings, from backstage to town hall meetings to private moments. The movie was not focused entirely on doom and gloom scenarios; it included several positive actions taking place in the world today. My issue with this film was having Al Gore do the majority of speaking. He is not a dynamic speaker in my opinion; as the movie progressed his speech was turning into white noise for me. There is a one dimensional aspect to his talking that I do not find motivating. With that being said, some of the scenes on screen were fascinating to observe; while others seemed a rehash from the time before. The scene in Congress was particularly noteworthy to me because it showed how some people are not willing to listen to a different point of view. And this is what I meant earlier about taking a bet on something where the outcome would not be known until it is too late.

 

2 ¾ stars      

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Beatriz at Dinner

WATCHING the irate customer badger the salesclerk over the rung up price for a box of cereal reminded me of myself. How awful; I saw myself in this belittling loud consumer. Having a storehouse of anger inside of me made me be a walking pressure cooker. One perceived wrong being done to me would set me off, always going over the top since I had a vast amount of anger readily available anytime. As the salesclerk remained calm, though I could see her eyes constantly scanning for a manager, I wondered how many people thought I was a crazy person. On a positive note, if you want to call it that, at least I could observe the situation and acknowledge I used to act that way; grateful that I dealt with my issues and was able to rise above the source of anger. Don’t people say recognizing the issue is the 1st step in the healing process?     HAVING the opportunity to grow old allows one to reflect on the multitude of personas they wore in their life. Not too long ago I was talking with a friend, mentioning something about being a former participant in a local group. My friend was taken by surprise because they never pictured me in such an activity. Curious, they asked how that came to be and why I was no longer interested in it. As I shared that part of history with them, I saw myself back in that period of time. I felt like I was talking about a distant relative like a 2nd or 3rd cousin; you know, having a blood connection but far removed to the point where there is a different level of familiarity. One of the pluses of having this type of conversation and reflection is it provides one with validation to what they have become. This dramatic comedy offered me the opportunity to see separate versions of who I used to be.     WITH a broken down car in her client’s driveway holistic practitioner Beatriz, played by Salma Hayek (Here Comes the Boom, Once Upon a Time in Mexico), was invited to stay for a dinner party. For some of the guests she was the entertainment. With a cast that included John Lithgow (Miss Sloane, Love is Strange) as Doug Strutt, Connie Britton (American Ultra, Friday Night Lights-TV) as Cathy, Chloe Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry, Big Love-TV) as Shannon and Amy Landecker (Doctor Strange, A Serious Man) as Jeana; the acting in this movie was excellent. John was the perfect choice for that character. As the story started out I was interested in the activity, particularly once the guests arrived for I found the mix of them familiar ground to my experiences. There were different ways to look at the story; it was easy to plug in variations of the good vs. evil scenario, which I will leave for the viewer to explore. However as the story unfolded I found myself losing interest. There was something lacking for me to the point I was feeling less connected. Honestly my connection to this picture was the opportunity it provided me to reflect on portions of my former life. At the end of the movie I felt unsatisfied. I would have appreciated more intensity and more discussion of philosophies between the characters. Instead I wound up getting annoyed by John’s character (which I thought was intended) and not caring for the ending. This was a mixed bag for me, but I did enjoy the opportunity to do some reflection.

 

2 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Book of Henry

UNLESS a person is a witness to or told about an abusive act, it is not always easy to know if someone has been victimized. There may be some physical signs such as bruises or cuts, but one cannot rely on them being visible. The emotional aspect resides in the deep, murky waters of the mind; where it is harder for someone to find, even for the victim sometimes. There was a boy who every day after school would stop to buy the largest size serving of ice cream from the ice cream man, who drove his blue and white truck around the neighborhood after school hours. By the time the boy walked home he had finished his ice cream, even if he got a brain freeze from eating it too fast. Once in the house this latchkey kid would eat whatever bread was in the kitchen, at times he would eat the entire loaf. If he was queried on what happened to the bread his standard answer was to say he was hungry. He knew eating this much food before dinner was not normal but it did not matter; it made him feel good which may have been the only time that day where he felt that way. There were visual and emotional cues about his behavior but he was tightlipped, afraid to tell anyone what was being done to him at school.     THERE are some people who do their best to help a victim of abuse. They really have good intentions; however, the abuser always has a backup plan or you might say an escape plan. Incorporating a variety of factors they find a way to continue their abusive ways. I remember with a school teacher’s assistance I was ushered into the vice principal’s office. The teacher explained what was happening and to my horror the vice principal requested my attackers be pulled out of class and sent down to him immediately. As each attacker was escorted into the office I prayed I could disappear into my chair. After the vice principal screamed and threatened each of them with expulsion, the group of boys left me alone for exactly 2 weeks. I wonder how they would have felt if they were part of this movie’s story?     NOT only did Henry Carpenter, played by Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special, St. Vincent), run the family finances and watch out for his little brother Peter and mother Susan, played by Jacob Tremblay (Room, Before I Walk) and Naomi Watts (While We’re Young, 3 Generations); he also was aware something was not right with his classmate who lived next door. He was sure her stepfather Glenn, played by Dean Norris (Little Miss Sunshine, Total Recall), had something to do with it. This dramatic thriller scored points with me due to the acting. Jaeden and Jacob matched each other’s talents, forming what looked like true brothers. Naomi was also excellent in her role. I was totally aware the script was illogical in places along with having a few patchy spots. It was obvious to me the writer were aiming for the heartstring’s of the movie audience; with that being said, I still found the story interesting enough to keep me engaged with it in its entirety. Additionally I am taking into consideration my sensitivity to the subject; even putting that aside I still found this film a worthwhile watch.

 

2 ¾ stars       

 

 

Flash Movie Review: All Eyez on Me

THE man standing up on the stage was of a large stature, making the stage look less immense. Queried by the judges he politely answered their questions. There was a hint of nervousness in his voice. One of the judges asked him to begin his audition. A song began to play with a solid beat and the man began to dance to it. The television camera cut back to the judges who all were sitting in a row, each one with a look of disbelief on their faces. The big man shocked all of them with his dancing that was part cheerleader moves, part dance and part pole dancing; all were being done exactly to the beat. To finish off his performance he did a twirl with a leap into the air, coming down into a full leg split with one leg stretched all the way in front of him and the other in the opposite direction behind him. The audience erupted with applause as well as the judges who were still in a bit of shock. Because of the man’s size the judges as well as the audience assumed dancing would have been the last thing the contestant would have performed.     I have come across similar scenarios in my fitness classes. A person would walk in and look like they would rather be at the dentist’s office getting a tooth drilled than being in an exercise class; however, once I started the class the person would get into it in an intense way. Years ago I taught an aerobics class that was made up of a mixture of strength and dance moves. First I have to tell you I took one look at this one man and thought he would hate the class, figuring his wife standing next to him had forced him to come with her. He was over 6 feet tall and stocky. Talk about shock for both of us; I was stunned he stayed for the whole class and he was amazed how tough of a workout it was to keep up. It goes to show you one can never assume something based on a person’s appearance. It is a lesson well learned since I was surprised with what I discovered in this biographical music drama.     FROM a young age Afeni Shakur, played by Danai Gurira (The Visitor, Mother of George), taught her son that words were more important than a basketball. Based on true events this film went through the life and death of actor/rapper Tupac Shakur, played by relative newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr. Normally I am not a big fan of a story jumping back and forth in time; however, the way the script was written made this a non-issue for me. Starring Hill Harper (Concussion, CSI: New York-TV) as the interviewer, Kat Graham (17 Again, The Vampire Diaries-TV) as Jada Pinkett and Dominic L. Santana (Love for Sale, Dead Heist) as Suge Knight; I thought the acting was excellent. There was not a time I did not think I was watching Tupac. Since I am not too familiar with his work I found this movie enlightening. If one already is familiar with Tupac this film may only be repeating known facts. I will say I wished the script had given more personal background about Afeni and Tupac. Now get this, as people were leaving at the end there was a tap on my shoulder. A man stopped to ask me what I thought about Tupac. I said I had no idea where he came from or who he was, but was now impressed with what he accomplished in his short life.

 

2 3/4 stars

 

    

Flash Movie Review: Desert Flower

SITTING comfortably behind the steering wheel, cruising down the road, the celebrity driver was expounding on the finer things about the automobile. It almost looked like this was their main means of transportation. Now I do not care if a celebrity wants to earn income by doing a commercial; everyone deserves to make a living. Will this person persuade me to buy that type of car when I am in the market for a new vehicle? The answer is absolutely not. In fact that goes for any celebrity endorsement. Though I am a big fan of movies and such, I am well aware of the financial inequity between celebrities and let us say teachers. Not that there is anything wrong with making as much money as you can; however, I have a hard time with anyone who uses their position of wealth as a bully pulpit to tell everyone else what they should do. I have experienced this in my own circle of friends and family, where those who were financially well off starting acting like they knew everything and the rest of us were not as smart. That type of behavior is offensive to me.     THE area where I can support celebrities is when they use their wealth and status to help a cause they believe in. I know about one celebrity who works with an organization to bring clean water to third world countries. I remember when parts of Louisiana were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. There were celebrities down there helping and rebuilding houses; they had the means and connections to bypass the red tape to get things done. With some celebrities their support of a cause may be due to personal reasons; they could be experiencing it in their own family, for example a celebrity with an autistic child. Whether you feel the same way or not, I admire someone who overcomes challenges in their life to then become a social activist against those very same tribulations. What I saw in this film festival winning movie, which was based on a true story, both stunned and amazed me.     THIRTEEN year old Waris, played by newcomer Soraya Omar-Scego, had to leave her village in Somalia. What was done to her there would have a strong impact on her life when she made it to London. Before I talk about this biographical drama I want to say I have very little knowledge about the customs that were performed in this movie. They may be based on religious beliefs or native; I do not know and I do not want to offend anyone who believes in them. Starring Liya Kebede (The Best Offer, Lord of War) as older Waris Dirie, Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, Happy-Go –Lucky) as Marilyn and Timothy Spall (Denial, Mr. Turner) as Terry Donaldson; the actual story had to be more powerful than what the script provided here. The back and forth between the young and older Waris dampened the intensity for me. I had a hard time watching some scenes because I could not believe what was being done. The acting was fine; I have always enjoyed Sally’s performances and Liya was perfect in this role. Honestly I still cannot get over that this custom takes place in the world. This DVD provided me with a whole new respect for those who overcome difficulties in their life and decide they want to do something about it.

 

2 ¾ stars — DVD    

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Zookeeper’s Wife

SEEING a person willingly jump out of an airplane could elicit one of two responses: the individual is courageous or crazy. Though there is no way I would ever go skydiving, I would not judge someone who wants to experience such an activity. As I go through my daily life I am constantly witnessing acts of courage. There is the individual who admits to being out of shape, who comes to a fitness class, because they want to make a change in their life. The blind person who is navigating down a crowded, noisy city street or the parent who gets sick on roller coasters, sitting next to their child who is thrilled to be on the ride with their parent; to me all of these individuals are courageous and strong. There are so many other examples of courage that I could write about but it would take up all of my time today.     FOR the past several months I have viewed news reports with an eye to the future. The news segments can range from peaceful protesters to refuges to the environment; I look at each one of these and am usually amazed at the amount of courage an individual has in the face of life or death, let alone the person who is willing to make a stand against injustice. Thinking back to some of the famous scientists who left their homeland for a better life or to just stay alive, there is something to be said for that individual’s braveness. Imagine if the scientist was not strong enough or courageous enough to leave a place where they were being persecuted; how different would the world have turned out? Whether a person actively engages in a cause or donates time or money to it, for them they are acting in a courageous way. One cannot necessarily compare different acts of courage; however, some do take on more risk and this movie based on a true story shows you how much risk one person was willing to take to make a difference.     AFTER German forces took control of Warsaw they set up a camp in the middle of Antonia and Jan Zabinski’s, played by Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane, The Martian) and Johan Heldenbergh (The Broken Circle Breakdown, The Misfortunates), zoo and got rid of most of the animals. The couple formed an idea that could save lives but they needed the zoo to remain open. This biographic drama was powered with Jessica’s acting. She was the dominant force in this film, though other actors such as Daniel Bruhl (Rush, Woman in Gold) as Lutz Heck and Shira Haas (Princess, A Tale of Love and Darkness) as Urszula still drew my attention to them. The story was amazing, frightening, tragic and a few other adjectives. I will say the script did not come up to what I felt could have been a more powerful story. There were a few scenes that I am willing to bet were created simply for dramatic effect. This produced an odd seesawing effect between intensity and sweetness; for entertainment value it was okay but the story deserved more intensity in my opinion. Regardless, to see Jessica acting in this courageous story was time well spent.

 

2 ¾ stars

 

 

%d bloggers like this: