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Flash Movie Review: Firebird

IN COLLEGE, I BECAME A FRIEND and confidant to my lab partner in our freshman year. We both had a similar sense of humor and shared the same interests, one of them being we were both from out of state. Early into the semester she told me she had a boyfriend back home which was fine with me, since I was not looking to date someone for the time being. I was more concerned with keeping up with my heavy course load. I asked her if it was hard being away from him and she said, “Not at all.” Well, that was not the response I was expecting; so, I decided to question her further. It turned out both of their parents introduced them to each other. She found him controlling but her parents approved of him because he was of the same religion. Before I could stop myself, I asked if they would still approve of him if he was verbally or heaven forbid physically abusive to her? She replied, “More than likely they would still approve of him.” I could not believe it. What was wrong with her folks, I wondered. Before I could comment further, she told me she was seeing someone else prior, but because he had a different religion, her parents would not allow him to come over to their house. I did not say this, but I was thinking how sad that situation must have been.      TO ME, ONE OF THE MOST powerful things a human being can do is to love someone. To feel it, acknowledge it and express it is a monumental moment in a person’s life. What I cannot understand are those individuals who wish to suppress that emotion/feeling in other people because it does not fit into their beliefs. The amount of time, energy and money being devoted in denying groups of people from expressing their love, for themselves and for someone else, is both horrifying and appalling. I would like to ask these people who protest and shout at marginalized groups, “How does their life infringe upon yours?” If a person loves someone of the same sex, what difference does it make to the person who opposes it? Or if a woman chooses to end her pregnancy, what right is it for a stranger to tell her she cannot do it? I have a hard time hearing and seeing this type of hatred; I cannot think what else to call it. A person realizing, they were born in the wrong body is a decision only they can decide, no one else. The toll it takes on these individuals who simply want to express their love for themselves or for another is exorbitant. You can see it for yourself in this film festival winning romantic drama.      DURING THE HEIGHT OF THE COLD war, a Soviet soldier finds himself becoming attracted to a new charismatic, confident pilot. With the KGB on high alert, any move out of order could be met with the severest of punishments. With Tom Prior (The Theory of Everything, Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Sergey Serebrennikov, Oleg Zagorodnii (Who Are You-TV, Oboroten v Pogonakh) as Roman Matvejev, Diana Pozharskaya (Zhara, The Counted-TV) as Luisa, newcomer Jake Henderson as Volodja and Nicholas Woodeson (Skyfall, The Man Who Knew Too Little) as Colonel Kuznetsov; this movie based on a true story was filmed beautifully. I thought the script was bit heavy handed on the emotions despite my feeling that it had glossed over the roughness of the environment. Regardless, it was a touching story that conveyed the dangers present during the 1970s in the Soviet Union. I thought the two main stars did a good job of conveying their emotions, along with a mix of dread. I was able to sense the pressure they were under. This is just me; but because the story is based in the Soviet Union’s air force, I did have a small sense of disbelief while watching this film. What they had to deal with just to be able to express their love.                                          

2 ¾ stars  

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Flash Movie Review: Barbarian

I SAT THERE WONDERING WHY I was so afraid. The short-term rental place was beautiful; I mean magazine worthy beautiful. A family member had taken a trip out west and stayed at a short-term rental property they booked online. It was a three-bedroom home with a gourmet kitchen, fireplace, in ground swimming pool and a fire pit. The furnishings and home looked like they were from the mid-century modern period. My relative had rented the place with three friends for vacation. The location was walking distance from the main shopping/entertainment district of the city and a 75–90-minute trip away from a national park. In other words, it was an ideal location.  As I was being shown photos of their trip, a part of my brain was trying to calculate why I had this fear about doing a short-term rental property; I have always stayed in hotels when I have been on a trip. One of the reasons I know, is because I love breakfast food. I pick hotels that offer a free breakfast or have a restaurant on site; so, I can wake up, shower and head down for a meal that I did not have to prepare. However, seeing this home, I would not have a problem if I had to bring in some groceries and make breakfast for myself; it would be worth it.      NOW IF YOU ARE THINKING WHAT I am looking at is unusual for a rental property, you would be correct. I am aware this property is extreme because of the others my friends have shown me from their trips. Most of them are fine, nothing too outrageous; however, there have been a few that were the pits. One friend of mine rented a cottage on a lake for a vacation spot for him and his family. The first thing that greeted them when they arrived was a broken bathtub sitting on the front lawn. Once inside, they found the place was dirty and I do not mean dirty from the previous guests. There was mold in the shower stall, peeling paint on the walls and windows that would not stay open. Also, the hot water never got hot. They took their luggage and went right back to their car and drove to the nearest hotel they could find. That is more like the image that appears in my mind when I hear someone is going to stay at a short-term rental property. And now that I have seen this film, I am even more afraid.      ARRIVING IN A NEW CITY FOR a job interview, the candidate picked a short-term rental property to stay at during her visit. To her surprise, when she got there the place was already occupied. With Georgina Campell (All My Friends Hate Me, Krypton-TV) as Tess, Bill Skarsgard (It franchise, Eternals) as Keith, Justin Long (The Wave, F is for Family-TV) as AJ, Matthew Patrick Davis (Henry Danger-TV, Dwight in Shining Armor-TV) as The Mother and Richard Brake (The Munsters, The Rhythm Section) as Frank; this horror, mystery thriller grabbed me early on. The suspense was thick and well played out, partially thanks to Georgina and Bill; they were excellent together. I enjoyed the freshness in the script and the way it built up the suspense and dread. However, the sharp turn it took threw me. It started to feel as if I was watching a couple of different stories at one point. And maybe that is the issue I had with this film; I would have been perfectly fine to keep more of the focus on the beginning two main characters. It took me a while to understand there was more to the script than what I was perceiving; I think with a little more tweaking this movie could have been a breathtaking, scary story. It certainly gives one reason to pause before agreeing to a short-term rental vacation property. There were several scenes with blood and violence.

2 ¾ stars 

Flash Movie Review: A Christmas Story Christmas

EVERY YEAR AROUND THIS TIME has always been special to me. First, my favorite holiday takes place this month, Thanksgiving. The food that is served for this holiday has always been special to me. Family recipes, some tweaked a bit depending on who would be there, would be on display offering multiple options of every course. And there was something about the food that gave me a sense of comfort, safety and love. I cannot describe it exactly, but there was nothing I did not like on the table except for that icky green bean casserole a relative insisted on bringing to the dinner. The other thing that made this time special was the yearly airing of the movie, The Wizard of Oz on television. As a little kid, I loved that movie. Every year when it was going to be shown on TV, the family would get together. The kids would settle down on the living room floor; some would have blankets; others would have pillows. The adults who wanted to see the film would have brought in extra chairs with them so every aunt and uncle would have a place to sit. One of the adults would check on us kids to see if we wanted anything to eat; however, depending on whose house we were all at, some relatives would not allow any food in their living room or what we would call it, “the front room.”      JUST THINKING OF THAT TIME BACK then always puts me in a good mood. There are so many memories associated with that time we all got together to eat around the table and watch The Wizard of Oz. I remember as an adult watching the different versions/sequels that came out based on the original Oz film and I must tell you, none of them provided that warm fuzzy feeling that the first film did for me as a child. My amazement when a relative told me the reason the movie started out in black and white then went to color, when Dorothy opened the door after the tornado dropped the house down, was because color film was invented after the studio began shooting the movie. Whether that is true or not doesn’t matter to me because it is a deep-rooted memory of me being amazed at the transformation from the grey Kansas landscape to the colorful Oz. I think it is terrific when a movie can trigger a fond memory in us; I wonder how many of you will experience this when you watch this sequel to a holiday classic.      WITH THE MOST IMPORTANT HOLIDAY COMING up, an adult Ralphie Parker, played by Peter Billingsley (The Break-Up, Sherman Oaks-TV), wants his kids to experience the magic of Christmas like he did when he was a kid. It would include a road trip back to his childhood home in Indiana. With Erinn Hayes (The Goldbergs-TV, Interior Night) as Sandy Parker, River Droshce (Miracle Workers-TV, Little Heroes: Mighty Missions-TV) as Mark, relative newcomer Julianna Layne as Julie and Julie Hagerty (Instant Family, Airplane franchise) as Mrs. Parker; this family comedy blended in situations from the original film with the updated versions. I will point out that the ending credits had side by side matching scenes, which were fun to watch. Because I saw the original film once a long time ago, I felt there were some things that I was missing in this picture. The beginning started out slow for me, but then found its footing. Some of the scenes were predictable, yet others had a ring of familiarity for me. The fact that this movie was created to be a wholesome, fun family watching experience I feel those who have fond memories of the original film will enjoy this new one more. Either way, I am glad I could watch it and remember my version of a happy holiday celebration.

2 ¾ stars  

Flash Movie Review: Nope

I WAS DEFINITELY IN THE MINORITY at the concert. Gratefully the venue had stadium seating; otherwise, I would have been ticked off with all the phone screens blocking my view. The place was packed with fans, and I was there with a couple of friends. As the band was performing, it seemed as if every person around me was watching the group through the screen of their phone as they were snapping photos and videos. Everywhere I looked there were people with their arms up, pointing their phone cameras to the stage. I sat there and wondered how many photos did a person need of their favorite band? It was crazy; instead of sitting there and enjoying the music, everyone was focused on capturing the musicians with their phones. It could not have been comfortable to hold one’s arms up for such a long time. I found it distracting because I did not pay good money to have these phones waving in the air. If I had been sitting on the main floor, I would have had a fight with the people in front of me if they had been using their phones. Why couldn’t people just allow themselves to enjoy the show and let it settle into their minds, to become a fond memory?      CAPTURING AN EVENT ON “FILM” IS not exclusive to concerts; everywhere I look, there is someone snapping a photo. Restaurants are a popular location for people to snap pix of their food; I am not sure why they do it. Sure, some dishes look great; but unless one is going to try and reproduce it, I am not clear why one would want to have a photo of it. I know I am more old school, but I do not see the fascination of posting things about myself on social media sites. I am astounded with the amount of people’s video clips that show up on my sites’ feeds. People dancing, pranking, posing, dressing up and so on; it is like a different world for me. There are many individuals who, I believe, see this as a way to earn income and fame. The more outrageous antics are done, I think, with the hope of acquiring a bigger following. And once there is a bigger following then the next step is to find a way to monetize one’s site. I know someone who has been focusing on making a living by getting corporate sponsors or products to promote while flying to various circuit events. So far it looks like they are succeeding. I am not sure I can say the same thing for the family in this dramatic, science fiction mystery.      A BROTHER AND SISTER ARE TRYING to keep the family horse business going despite unusual things taking place around their ranch. With Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah, Black Panther) as OJ Haywood, Keke Palmer (Hustlers, Alice) as Emerald Haywood, Brandon Perea (The OA-TV, Insurrection) as Angel Torres, Michael Wincott (Talk Radio, What Just Happened) as Antlers Holst and Steven Yeun (Minari, I Origins) as Ricky ‘Jupe’ Park; there were parts of this film that were bold and spectacular in a Hollywood way. I thought Daniel and Keke were outstanding, especially Keke; this was such a different role for her, and I was totally impressed. There was a lot going on in the story and to tell you the truth, if there was a lot of symbolism or meaning, it was lost on me. The first part of the movie dragged for me, taking some time before I felt I was engaging with the story. I still am not sure about the chimpanzee scenes and that is all I will say about that. Having some quality moments in this picture, I wished it connected more with me. Or maybe that is the point. 

2 ¾ stars 

Flash Movie Review: The Batman

THE HEAVINESS OF SADNESS AND GRIEF affects each of us differently. Not only am I good example of this, but I have encountered many others whose experiences went from one extreme to the other and everything in between. At an early stage of my life, I used to deal with my emotions by stuffing them inside and in turn, stuffing my mouth with food. The more upset I was the more I would consume from the pantry, refrigerator, ice cream truck, candy store and any other source that would satisfy my tastes and make me feel good. It took a long time, but I eventually learned how to better deal with the pain of grief and sadness. During my dating years, I wound up doing a heavy year long stint of volunteering after a heart wrenching breakup. A friend of mine, upon getting dumped by a boyfriend, would go through her photos and either scratch out her ex-boyfriend with a black marker or delete him completely. I have other friends who withdraw when they experience something traumatic. They prefer being by themselves, immersed in all their sadness until they get to a point where they begin to start rebuilding themselves back into the living world. I depended on this method for a long time. It was nothing for me to stay home and watch a dozen movies over a weekend, while dealing with my pain.      ONE OF THE MORE CONSTRUCTIVE REACTIONS I had due to grief was going to school to be a psychiatrist. Due to what I had suffered in my earlier years, I wanted to be in a position where I could help others who had suffered at the hands of a bully. The first couple of years of college were intense for me as I navigated the amount of course work with the amount of emotional baggage I had brought to school. Having lived through the experience, I felt I would have an advantage in assisting my future patients who had similar trauma to mine. As it turned out, I discovered I had few filters to keep me from becoming fully involved with a person who was dealing with familiar grief. Instead of helping them to discover the means to heal themselves, I found myself wanting to tell them what to do. I knew this would not be a solid fit for me; if someone was doing something that I thought was not a good move, I could see myself bluntly telling them to “knock it off” or saying something like “that makes no sense.” Looking back, I know I made the right decision and am now better equipped to handle grief or sadness. As for the main character in this action crime drama, see what he is doing to alleviate his grief.      A SERIES OF GRUESOME MURDERS OF Gotham’s political figures, forces Batman, played by Robert Pattinson (Tenet, The Lighthouse), into a cat and mouse game that could lead him to startling revelations. With Zoe Kravitz (Kimi, Rough Night) as Selina Kyle, Jeffrey Wright (The French Dispatch, Shaft) as Lt. James Gordon, Colin Farrell (Phone Booth, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as Oz and Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood, Love & Mercy) as The Riddler; this film was totally dark in every aspect of the word. It is a grittier and more menacing Gotham than the versions from the past. When I left the movie theater, I felt unsatisfied; however, as I have been thinking more about this film, I have softened in my position a bit. For me, Zoe and Colin where the standout actors. Zoe can be spun off into her own movies in my opinion. Robert, for the way his character was written, was a good choice; but I did not connect to his Batman until closer to the end. And speaking of the end, this picture was way too long at 2 hours and 56 minutes. Some scenes were engaging for me, others dragged. Overall, I get the idea what the director and writers were trying to do. I only wish I did not have to sit so long in the dark and dourness of both the visuals and script.               

2 ¾ stars 

Flash Movie Review: Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage

I HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO SWAY from side to side. Everyone around me was doing it to match the singer’s movements up on stage. With an arm up in the air, I moved to the beat of the music. There is something about being in the middle of a crowd of people who all came together for one purpose—to enjoy their favorite musical artists. At a time where there is so much divisiveness in the world, it is such an uplifting feeling to be amongst people who all share something in common with their love of music. I firmly believe music has healing power because it goes beyond political, ethnic and religious lines; there is no hidden agenda, just a melody of notes and a beat. Isn’t there a saying about music soothes the savage beast? The thing I enjoy about musical festivals is the assortment of performing artists. If an attendee is lucky, they might hear someone who is new to them. Then there are the artists who have not had a current hit in years, but a large established following who will come see them time and time again. Because I am a coupon clipper, I feel music festivals are simply discounted concerts. I ask you, where can you pay one price to see so many different artists?      NOW THE ONLY TYPE OF MUSIC festivals I have attended have been city run ones. The city closes off several blocks of a street to put up multiple stages and porta potties. There is a huge music fest held every year in my city, but I have never gone to it because it is held in a field. The idea that if it were to rain, I would be forced to walk and stand in mud is not appealing, at all. I like having restaurants and bathrooms close by to me and if it were to rain, I could stand under a store’s awning. The average price I have paid to attend a festival has been between $15-30.00. To see around a dozen different acts for that price is a major bargain to me. I will say, I am always amazed at those who try to sneak in for free. The less money collected means the less opportunity to book decent acts to the festival. I have been to some fests where the musical performers are either so old, they cannot carry their tune that was poplar decades earlier; or, they have little experience and cannot figure out how to project their voice over the crowd. My complaints seem minor though, compared to the festival goers in this documentary.      PROMOTERS THOUGHT THEY HAD A WINNING proposal to create a massive musical festival to honor what was achieved musically decades earlier. However, they did not understand people’s musical tastes and the times can change. Directed by Garret Price (The Daily Habit-TV; Love, Antosha), this film seemed to have suffered a bit from a split personality. I was hoping to see some great sets from the musical artists of the time, and I did to some degree. The issue I had was there was this one side being shown of the promoter’s point of view and another view was about those who attended. The two sides formed a weird juxtaposition in my opinion. Despite many of the musical acts not part of my playlist, I would have enjoyed getting more back story to what they were thinking about the whole festival. There were a few interviews; but not enough that provided me with a stronger connection to the story. On the other hand, there was certainly an element of shock that I was not expecting while watching this movie. Before I even got to the end of this picture, I already knew I was meant to only experience live music on a city block.

2 ¾ stars     

Flash Movie Review: Greenland

WHEN I SAW THE FIRE BREAK out in the skyscraper, it changed me. Anytime afterwards when I entered a high-rise building, the first thing I looked for were the exits and fire extinguishers. I know this might sound extreme; but the idea of being stuck on one of the upper floors of a tall building with a fire raging below was something I hoped I would never have to experience in my lifetime. I saw how people were racing up the stairs to get away from the fire, aware that the smoke was getting thicker which caused them to cough more. Maybe my avoidance of touching doorknobs and handrails started when I saw one of the citizens burn their hand on a heated metal doorknob. With fire raging through the floors, going up air shafts, smoke billowing out of shattered windows, wires short circuiting and electricity sparking; there was so much going on that I did not know where to look first on the big screen. With the addition of a multitude of film celebrities, this was the best disaster movie I had ever seen to date. Because of Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain, Jennifer Jones along with many others in the film, The Towering Inferno was a film that remained with me for years.      AROUND THE SAME TIME WHEN THE Towering Inferno debuted, a slew of disaster films came out for several years. There was The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake and Airport among others. I try not to be that person who compares one tragedy to another; but, during this period of time where movie special effects were improving and studios were churning out these films, I can see where this type of film can transport the viewer away from their worries. There is something about seeing a big production story come to life on the big screen, especially when it is filled with thrills and harrowing predicaments. I remember seeing some of these movies at a theater, where I would be pulled into the story to the point where I found myself worrying about the character’s plight. It was around two hours of pure entertainment that had a similar effect on me like a roller coaster ride. There would be periods of time where I was holding my breath out of tense nervousness, like when I saw Shelley Winters swimming underwater in The Poseidon Adventure. Or, seeing one of the celebrities don a fireproof suit to walk through fire. What keeps me and I assume many other viewers watching these types of pictures is the sense of hope we have that things will turn out alright in the end. In a way it gives one strength to deal with their own challenges. These feelings I got from those old disaster films returned when I watched this dramatic action film.      DESPITE THE MARITAL DIFFICULTIES THEY WERE experiencing, John and Allison Garrity, played by Gerard Butler (Den of Thieves, The Vanishing) and Morena Ballerina (Deadpool franchise, Ode to Joy), needed to work together to protect themselves and their son when a catastrophic meteor shower was due to hit Earth. With Roger Dale Floyd (Doctor Sleep, Kronos) as Nathan Garrity, Scott Glenn (Backdraft, Sucker Punch) as Dale and Scott Poythress (Synchronicity, I Trained the Devil) as Kenny; this thrilling movie was a throwback to those old disaster films I described earlier. The difference however was the personal storyline the writers followed in the middle of all the action. I enjoyed watching this picture and thought Gerard was right back into his pseudo action hero role. There was some predictability with the script; but, with the well-orchestrated action sequences, I did not mind it. And with the way the director beautifully kept things moving along in the story, I was getting an almost visceral reaction from watching the scenes. Whether one is familiar with the old action films or not, this one is well suited to give one a thrill ride.

2 ¾ stars   

Flash Movie Review: Mank

THE PROFESSOR WROTE A NOTE NEXT to the grade on my term paper. She wrote, “I had no idea you were paying attention in this classroom. Please come see me after class.” I was both amused and hesitant because I wondered what she wanted to talk about. When class was over, I hung around until the other students had left then went up to the professor. Any concerns I had were alleviated by her chuckling. Since I received an “A” on my paper, she told me she was pleasantly surprised but wanted to know why I never participated in any of the class discussions. I told her talking made me nervous, that I was better at communicating my thoughts through the written word. She accepted what I said but encouraged me to participate with the other students because she liked the way I looked at problems, based on what I had written in my term paper. I made her laugh when I told her that my mind takes its time to process information before I can talk about it. Pushing my luck, I said some people talk without thinking and it is a distraction for me. “Aren’t there times where you just sit there and wonder where the student got their thoughts on a subject,” I asked her. All she offered was some students were more excitable which led them to speak out first before thinking everything through; I agreed with her and that was the extent of our conversation.      ONE OF THE THINGS I LEARNED from that professor was how the order of words one puts to paper can alter perceptions. Along with that there was the aspect of style; the way the person puts their voice down into their written words. I saw firsthand how easily style is conveyed through written words. A student who sat next to me received back his term paper and it had gotten a grade of “F.” I did not want to appear nosy so I tried to read the professors comments out of the corner of my eye. The professor wrote “not your writing” next to the grade and below that she had highlighted parts of paragraphs with side comments I could not make out. The student must have seen me trying to read the comments because he acknowledged me and said he had misunderstood the instructions; he had copied passages from a book into his term paper. Now he did not tell me; but I assumed he copied the passages word for word, which I had to say was not the best decision. Not that I am an expert, but from the things I heard him read in class, I knew anything he found in a book was not the same as him telling a story. He loved to draw out a point with the use of humor or shock; most textbooks I had read didn’t often have those two elements in its writing. In my opinion he would have been better to employ the use of a term paper writer; I saw their advertisements in the school paper. They would not write the paper; they simply directed the student towards writing a better paper. It is not so dissimilar to what took place in this biographical comedic drama.      DESPITE A BROKEN LEG THERE WAS only a short amount of time to write the screenplay for Hollywood’s latest wondered. What wasn’t helping Herman Mankiewicz, played by Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour, The Courier), was his love of alcohol. With Amanda Seyfried (The Last Word, Mean Girls) as Marion Davies, Lily Collins (Tolkien, Mirror Mirror) as Rita Alexander, Tom Pelphrey (Hostage, Iron Fist-TV) as Joe Mankiewicz and Arliss Howard (The Time Traveler’s Wife, Full Metal Jacket) as Louis B. Mayer; this film festival winner had the extra burden of viewers’ anticipation due to the subject matter of Orson Welles and his movie. Visually I thought this film was gorgeous, both in look and style. Ultimately, the big seller in this picture was Gary Oldman’s performance. Whether the script was close to the true events, I do not know; however, I enjoyed the behind the scene aspect, nonetheless. However, as the story was playing out, I was getting less engaged with it. It seemed as if there were pieces of this film that blended well, but then others came across disjointed. There is no doubt in my mind that the whole process of creating what some say is the best movie of all time had to be an amazing experience; I only wished this movie had gotten the same amount of attention.

2 ¾ stars

Flash Movie Trailer: I Am Woman

NOT ONLY WAS IT INFORMATIVE, IT was also a fun lecture. I know, how many times do you get to have a good time while sitting through a lecture? In this case, it really was an enjoyable time; all because of the lecturer. I was attending a fitness convention and was lucky enough to get a space in the lecture before it became filled. The lecturer was well known in the industry and I had heard his lectures were in high demand. Anyone I spoke with who had attended one of his lectures, raved about him. Everything they said about him I found true while sitting through his lecture. He talked about addictive personalities and how to spot them in our classes. Despite the serious topic, he had a special way of injecting humor; and for lack of a better word, his lust for life, into his talking points. At times, he was giving out so much good information that I had a hard time keeping up with it in my notes. Included in the lecture was a workshop where he led us in some specific exercises related to the topic. I have to say he was a dynamic instructor who used an abundance of visual and audio cues in his instructions. And just like he injected his type of humor into his lecture, he doubled the amount in his workshop. By the time the session was over it was hard not to be a believer in his philosophy.     THE FOLLOWING DAY I WAS SITTING in the hotel’s coffee shop when that same presenter walked in. As he came near me, I caught his eye and nodded my head. He nodded back and came over. I told him how much I enjoyed his lecture the day before and offered him a seat, if he cared to join me. Sitting down, we started talking about our experiences at the convention; I was curious to hear things from a presenter’s point of view. A waitress came over to see if he wanted to order something and without looking at the menu, he ordered a couple of desserts. To say I was surprised would have been an understatement. Here he had just been talking about addictive personalities yesterday and now he was having 2 desserts for lunch? A little warning flag popped up in my mind. We continued with our conversation, but I noticed he was talking at the same rapid-fire rate as he had done during his lecture. I assumed on a one to one basis he would have toned himself down. Something was starting to feel odd about him. When the waitress brought over his desserts, I knew something was not right because he tore thru the desserts like they were his first meal in a week. By the time he left, I was convinced he was either addicted to sugar or he was high on something; it made no sense based on everything he said during his lecture. Here people were flocking to his classes to receive his words of wisdom, yet not knowing trouble was bubbling up behind it.      BY WRITING ONE SONG, AUSTRALIAN BORN Helen Reddy, played by Tilda Cobham-Hervey (Hotel Mumbai, One Eyed Girl), became the voice of a feminist movement. Little did anyone know what was happening behind that voice. With Evan Peters (X-Men franchise, American Horror Story-TV) as Jeff Wald, Chris Parnell (Anchorman franchise, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) as Artie Mogull, Danielle Macdonald (Bird Box, Dumplin’) as Lillian Roxon and Matty Cardarople (Jurassic World, Stranger Things-TV) as Roy Meyer; this film festival winner revealed a surprising side to the life of Helen Reddy, at least surprising to me. To present that side, I thought Tilda did an admirable job playing the iconic singer in this musical biography. With the amount of drama and turmoil around Helen’s life, the script needed to be a powerful statement. Unfortunately, that was not the case. There was enough drama to spring from and create some riveting scenes, but the writing fell flat. There was a level of predictability that I expected, but not the amount that was happening here. Gratefully, I was enjoying the musical performances enough to prevent me from becoming bored. If everything that was being shown in this film was true for Helen, then she was even stronger than any of us believed her to be.

2 ¾ stars   

Flash Movie Review: Escape From Pretoria

NO MATTER WHERE I BUMPED INTO him, I always knew what to expect. He would address me with a nickname he made up back when we were classmates. Next, he would ask me if I was still in touch with a classmate of ours before he would make a snide comment about them. I stopped asking him to not make any comments about them but every time we ran into each other, he still made sure to say something. These days I simply do not react to his comments; instead, I ask him something different to switch the subject. Whenever I have bumped into him, I am reminded how I disliked the pettiness and backstabbing that took place amongst the school’s cliques. He was an instigator who enjoyed all that drama. Because he never failed to make a comment about someone we knew, I believed he was trying to get me to join him in badmouthing people from our past; to what purpose, I had no idea. I did find it puzzling that after all these years he had not changed one bit; he was obnoxious back in school as he was now. It was as if he had never grown up and I had to wonder if he had any friends still from our school days.     IT WAS INDIVIDUALS LIKE HIM THAT pushed me to apply and accept enrollment in an out of state school. Many of the students I grew up with were applying to our state’s university’s main campus. I decided to send out applications to schools from a few states nearby and some that were close to the coasts. As luck would have it, I wound up at a university where only 2 other fellow classmates planned on attending and if they were there, I never saw them. One of my goals for going out of state for school was to reinvent myself. Due to the experiences I had in my schooling, I did not want to repeat it out of state; so, I worked on myself internally. This meant I had to look back and exam painful experiences, hoping to find an inner strength that would help me not to repeat similar scenarios in my new surroundings. I wanted to return home as a grown-up essentially; someone who past classmates would have a hard time recognizing. I will be honest; it took a lot of work to push out the built-up anger and resentment. Not that it is all gone now, but I know I have been traveling on the right path based on former acquaintances’ reactions when meeting me now. I can see similar work was done by the main actor in this film festival nominated thriller because I did not think once he was Harry Potter playing another character.      DESPITE BEING CONVICTED AND IMPRISONED, ANTI-APARTHEID activist Tim Jenkin, played by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter franchise, Swiss Army Man), was determined to get out of his prison cell and continue his fight. With Daniel Webber (Australia Day, Thumper) as Stephen Lee, Ian Hart (Michael Collins, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) as Denis Goldberg, Mark Leonard Winter (The Dressmaker, One Eyed Girl) as Leonard Fontaine and Nathan Page (Underbelly-TV, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries-TV) as Mongo; this movie based on a true story was made better by Daniel Radcliffe’s acting. The story itself was given a typical script, but thanks to Daniel and his fellow inmates, I found myself getting pulled into the activist’s plight. There was some unevenness to the directing; but there was no skimping on the parts that needed to be thrilling. The script did not delve deeply into the characters; but for a good old fashioned “prison break” story, this picture can be proud it was able to break out of the pack from similarly themed films.

2 ¾ stars

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