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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

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Boss Baby

LIFE as you know it can burst apart in a seismic moment when you are introduced to your new baby sister or brother. If you are the first born it probably is a bigger adjustment than it would be for those born after you. When you are the only one, you benefit from your parents devoting their attention solely on you. With multiple children in the family the parents may feel as if they are spending equal time with each child; but the perception from the child’s point of view may be totally different. It stands to reason before that baby arrived the only child was the sole focus; now 2 siblings will vie for the attention of Mom and Dad. It does not stand to reason that the scope of your parents’ attention will double with each new child coming into the household. If that was not enough then there is the whole issue about birth order and the characteristics associated with it; such as the middle child gets the least attention and the youngest of the siblings gets spoiled.     THE thing that stuns me the most about families with more than one child is how these early, shall we say, landmines can lead to the deterioration of family ties. I recently was talking with someone who expressed they do not talk to their brother. When I asked what they meant, they told me they have not had any communication with their sibling for years. Personally I cannot understand how siblings could dissolve to a level where it was preferable to end all communication between each other. One has to wonder where the parents and their involvement in the upbringing of these children were during the siblings’ formative years. The answers may be found in this animated family comedy.     THERE was something different about the baby, voiced by Alec Baldwin (The Departed, 30 Rock-TV), who came into the life of Tim, voiced by Miles Christopher Bakshi (Shrek franchise). For starters the baby was dressed up in a suit. This movie was geared towards the older siblings of a family. I felt part of the humor and sight gags were pointed more to the 6-10 year olds; however, a good portion of the script had the parents in mind, with the type of jokes and references on display. I am not sure if younger children will have as much fun watching this film. Alec was perfect in the role, though Steve Buscemi (Reservoir Dogs, Fargo) as Francis Francis, TV talk show host Jimmy Kimmel as Dad and Lisa Kudrow (Easy A, The Comeback-TV) as Mom held their own. What I enjoyed about this movie besides the humor was its retro look; the visuals reminded me of some of the cartoon shows I used to watch when I was a kid. Underneath all of this I thought the writers did a wonderful job in introducing the lesson of the story. Maybe parents will see the lesson to learn early on, but for children it came across in an imaginative way. Pitting this against other recent animated films, this one may not have all the bells and whistles; however, as the baby of the family I refrain from making such comparisons. There was a brief extra scene in the middle of the credits and another extra scene at the end.

 

2 3/4 stars    

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Bleed for This

AFTER so many years teaching in the health industry you would think there is nothing left to surprise me these days. It is not often I encounter a long distance runner but when I do I still am fascinated by the person’s dedication/determination. Personally there is no way I would let my feet pound pavement that long. And if that is not enough reason to avoid running, the individuals who run outside in winter simply baffle me. There was one person I spoke with who ran every day no matter what the weather was outside. They had to get new running shoes every three months. I asked one time what they got out of running every day and they said it was peace of mind. If there was one day they could not run, they felt oft-kilter the entire day. On a certain level I had to admire the person’s drive.   DO you know how you can see traits in other people that you do not recognize in yourself? Regarding my film reviews, everyone who knows me knows I have to be at the movies over the weekend. When talking to a friend about getting together I cannot tell you how many times I have said I need to see a movie first. The response I get from them is this, “You do know you do not HAVE to go; you choose to go.” I usually say it is my job because that is how I look at writing reviews; the best job by the way. The way my mind is wired this is something that I have to do. Some of you might remember when I first started posting reviews my goal was to write one review a day for 365 days and I achieved that goal. Afterwards I posted comments that going forward there would be times where I would miss posting a review; there was no need to worry. I dialed back to find balance once again in my life. It is funny how I realized I am no different than a marathon runner; we both have the drive and determination. It has given me a whole new appreciation for anyone who single mindedly has a need to achieve something.   BASED on a true story world champion boxer Vinny Pazienza, played by Miles Teller (War Dogs, Fantastic Four), did something no one believed he could every do. Evidently no one knew the drive Vinny had to achieve his goal. This dramatic sport story worked because of its amazing cast. Besides Miles there was Aaron Eckhart (Sully, My All American) as Rooney and Katey Sagal (Married with Children-TV, Sons of Anarchy-TV) as Louise who were both on par with Miles. I was not familiar with this biographical story but I have to say it truly was incredible. What was missing for me was more detail in the script. We all have seen boxing movies and this one had a basic floor plan that was a bit predictable. I would have appreciated more details into Vinny’s life and family life. As it stood, the movie was interesting though there were scenes that had blood and violence in them. As I mentioned earlier it was the acting that made this film and with seeing this story, one has to admire this boxer’s determination.

 

2 ¾ stars    

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Nocturnal Animals

THE talk I was hearing from people was this place had things “to die for” throughout the store. I decided I would check it out since the place covered one of my favorite food categories: desserts. Walking into the bakery with its fancy, carved wooden doors with stained glass panes; I immediately fell into a swoon from the overwhelming smell of baked goods. From a piping hot smell as if the ovens were exhaling cinnamon breaths to the aroma of roasted nuts wafting in the air like a low morning fog; there was too much for my eyes and nostrils to take in with one pass. The prospects looked mighty good that I had entered into a little slice of heaven. To my left was a glass case with three shelves filled with loaves of bread. Not your standard fare, these loaves had a variety of different looks to them. Some were a rich dark brown with shiny crusts while others had various seeds, nuts and fruit pieces covering their tops looking like those photos of rough terrain one would see in a friend’s photos from a national park.   AS for the cakes they literally looked like works of art. There was a cocoa frosted cake that had an abstract design made out of candy coated chocolate pieces across each side. On the top were white and chocolate ribbons that had depth to them so they looked like knotted twine. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement, especially when I came upon an entire case filled with cookies; the perfect food item in my opinion. No mess, no crumbs, no evidence of them ever being missed. After 30 minutes I made my selections and walked out of the bakery, laden with packages. Once home everything was set for me to experience these exquisite morsels of bliss. The first cookie I tried had an interesting taste; the 2nd one I tried had an unexpected flavor I did not find enjoyable. Moving on to a mini-cake I took a slice and bit into it. It was good but nothing special. My heart was sinking as my disappointment was rising.   LONG divorced from her husband Susan Morrow, played by Amy Adams (Arrival, Big Eyes), was surprised to receive a copy of his new book that was dedicated to her. The story would turn into a disturbing read for Susan. This film festival winning dramatic thriller also starred Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, Southpaw) as Tony Hastings/Edward Sheffield and Michael Shannon (Elvis & Nixon, Midnight Special) as Bobby Andes. The three of them were perfect in their roles. Written and directed by designer and creative director Tom Ford (A Single Man), the look of this film was picture perfect. Everything was in its place and each scene looked complete with style. The script was a story within a story where I found myself more attracted to the book’s story. There was more strength in it compared to Susan’s current life; In other words I felt more life coming out of them. This film was certainly a polished piece of work that just needed a little more work below the surface.

 

2 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

HAVE you ever met someone and there was an immediate, familiar comfort between the two of you? There was very little or none at all the two of you knew about each other, yet you would listen to what they had to say and you had the sense you knew about it already. This recently happened to me. I only knew a few details about the person before our scheduled meeting. Introductions were made and as we sat down we started up a conversation that was void of any silent moments. Each of us found a rhythm to our speech that was open and real as if we had been friends for years.    THE same feeling can be found between long term friends who have been out of touch for a long duration. You must have experienced it at some time I would think. I have a few friends who live out of state. One in particular I had not seen for several years; however, when we finally got together it was as if no significant duration of time every happened between us. We started right up where we left off our previous time as if we had seen each other a few days ago. In situations like this I tend to feel a warm familial connection to the person. Now here is the funny thing, I had this type of reaction to seeing this adventure family film. Being a big fan of the Harry Potter books and movies, I immediately formed a connection to this story that takes place 70 years before Harry Potter arrived in the magical world.    ARRIVING in New York City to seek out a particular magical creature Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl, The Theory of Everything), was waylaid by a No-Maj (American for Muggle) who mistakenly wound up with Newt’s suitcase filled with magical creatures. This family movie did not disappoint with the abundance of magical special effects. Set in the 1920s I thoroughly enjoyed the sets and costumes. With Dan Fogler (Fanboys, The Goldbergs-TV) as Kowalski, Colin Farrell (The Lobster, Total Recall) as Graves, Katherine Waterson (Inherent Vice, Steve Jobs) as Tina and Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk about Kevin, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as Credence Barebone; I thought the actors were good with their characters but had no chemistry between each other. Between the script and the directing, I found the movie on a whole a bit stagnant in some places. It went from a slow pace to a frantic action scene causing an unevenness in the pacing. From what I heard I understand this will be the 1st of 5 films, so I understood this movie would be more of an introduction to all the new characters. In addition, it was very hard not to compare this picture to the Harry Potter movies. This may sound odd but I found several characters were lacking   personality; I could not tell you much about them. However with me having an immediate connection to the magical world depicted here the flaws in this film were smoothed over.

 

2 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Loving

THE first time I heard that word being hurled at me I knew it would not be the last time. What I did not know was once a person was labeled by that word, no matter what they achieved, most of their peers would still only see a f-a-t person. Around the same time I remember a classroom discussion about race. A little boy in class asked the teacher why some people’s skin was a different color. I still recall what the teacher said to us. She told the class all it meant was that person’s family, from a very long time ago, was born in a different part of the world. The closer to the equator, the darker the person’s skin would be is how she described it. This bit of information turned into a game outside of class, where students would guess where a person’s grandparents were born based on the color of the skin on a person.     NOW fast forward to high school my freshman year; we heard a rumor there was a time when girls were not allowed to wear pants in school. You can imagine how astonished we were on this bit of news. It turned out it was true; if you were female then you had to wear a skirt or dress to school. I could not understand what possible reason did the administration have for such a ridiculous rule. Past my school years when I was living in the city in my first apartment, I was walking down the street. Two guys were walking in my direction but I did not pay attention since there was a variety of shoppers on the street. Just as we were coming shoulder to shoulder the guy closest to me punched me in the face and I staggered back into a plate glass window. Either they did it for some initiation or they just did not like the way I looked. For 2 1/2 decades I had experienced actions based on looks, why was there such a preoccupation with it?    MILDRED and Richard, played by Ruth Nega (World War Z, The Samaritan) and Joel Egerton (The Gift, Black Mass), were deeply in love. Their love however was not right according to some of their neighbors. Based on a true story this dramatic biography set during the 1950s in Virginia had such an important story to tell. With Marton Csokas (The Lord of the Rings franchise, The Equalizer) as Sheriff Brooks and Nick Kroll (Adult Beginners; I Love You, Man) as Bernie Cohen, the actors were all good; however, Joel and Ruth were incredible and Ruth deserves an Oscar nomination. For this story I felt the script could have done a better job in telling the story. I wanted to know how Mildred and Richard met considering the obvious racial divide that was on display. There was a subdued nature to the telling of this story, both the written word and the directing of scenes. At the end of the film I had a mixture of feelings. On the one hand one could say we have come a long way from this story; but on the other hand, the hate I am currently seeing in the world makes it seem as if nothing has changed. Hate is the new black.

 

2 3/4 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Trolls

IT is quite easy to be pessimistic when one has experienced many disappointments. I have mentioned in the past I refer to myself as a defensive pessimist. The first time I heard this term was in one of my psychology classes. The term fit me like a custom-made suit. Through classroom discussions I learned some new things about myself. I would not be labeled a “downer,” but I never was one to look on the bright side of a situation. This I found out was a good thing because me and people with a similar mindset prepare for the worst in a situation, but are quicker to adapt then those who stay positive. I will give you an example of something that happened to me this week. MY furnace had to be replaced immediately. The HVAC company offered a 36 month payment plan, interest free. Who would not want to take advantage of this offer? However, as I was filling out the online application I noticed the issuing bank was the same bank I had a horrible time with when I refinanced my mortgage. Just to give you a reference point this bank had my mortgage and my application to refinance it was declined one time because no one at the bank checked off the prefix Mr. So now as I continued the application process a part of my brain was already planning for the worst. I was coming up with a couple of backup plans if the bank was going to hassle me again. Sure enough the bank responded to my application by only giving me a $900.00 credit limit. I will spare you the foul language; only telling you my FICA score is 834-840. I called the bank with no fear because I had my options but in 15 minutes they increased my credit limit to $9500.00. If this did not happen I would still be able to keep my appointment for the new furnace; could an optimist make the needed adjustments? Something to ponder as you watch this colorful, animated adventure film.   WHEN one of the townsfolk was kidnapped optimist Poppy, voiced by Anna Kendrick (The Accountant, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates), was positive she could save her fellow troll. It only meant working with the pessimist Branch, voiced by Justin Timberlake (Friends with Benefits, Runner Runner). This film festival winning comedy had a fun soundtrack to accompany the kaleidoscopic scenes. Though the movie was geared towards children, adults could find things they would like about the story. For me the idea of working together resonated strongly in the script. The story was basic, offering very little in originality; I felt as if the purpose of the movie was to make troll dolls popular again. With that being said let me tell you the things that kept my interest through this picture were the use of sarcasm, the dancing, song selection and the color palette. What you see in the trailer is pretty much what you get in the film. I try my best not to go into a movie theater with expectations, but I have to say this film was easy fun. There was a brief extra scene during the credits.

 

2 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Dressmaker

At the time they recited the saying to me I thought I was being handed a line. The spoken words made no sense to me. “You are only given as much as you can handle;” what the heck were they talking about? It is funny how some things stay in your mind, hibernating until something happens then suddenly they awaken and burst to the forefront of your brain. I had been talking with a fellow survivor, commiserating over our similar experiences. We had both turned to food for comfort and as a way to stuff our feelings down. I was surprised by what they were saying because when I was going through the suffering I felt I was the only one. It turns out I was only one of many. Now here is the kicker; while we were talking that line about being given only what I can handle popped into my brain. Both of us had survived and I realized what I went through was an integral part in molding me to the person I am today. I started talking about how those events gave me the awareness of other people’s feelings; that my words could have an effect on an individual. My ability to read a person’s uneasiness, when they walk into one of my classes for the first time, I could now attribute to the things I experienced in the past. This allowed me to share those feelings with the new members and hopefully give them comfort and a sense of belonging. Presently I am pretty happy with my life and have come to terms with what I went through years ago. However I am aware my history also fueled a dark side to me. From the conversations I have had I believe we all have a dark side; so I guess it comes down to the choices we make.   RETURNING to the small town she was sent away from Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage, played by Kate Winslet (The Reader, Steve Jobs), had more than just her sewing skills to offer to the community. Based on the bestselling novel this film festival winning drama had an engaging twisted story. With Judy Davis (To Rome with Love, Barton Fink) as Molly Dunnage, Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games franchise, Paranoia) as Teddy McSwiney and Hugo Weaving (Matrix franchise, The Lord of the Rings franchise) as Sergeant Farrat; the acting was great, though Kate and Molly were the best to me. The script was striped with humor, sadness, craziness and softness; I enjoyed the fun aspects of all the characters, besides the filming of it in rural Australia. On the downside there was almost too much going on throughout the story. I found some scenes rang false and felt forced. An example would be some of the scenes between Kate and Liam. Also I think it would be best to place logic aside and simply experience the movie. It would be wrong of me not to mention the amazing costumes, which just added more fun to this wild story. As I mentioned earlier it is the things we choose that mold us and because of the choices made in this picture I had a good time watching it.

 

2 ¾ stars  

 

 

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