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Flash Movie Review: Wind River

IT WAS THE PHOTOGRAPH along with its headline in the newspaper that caught my eye. The old black and white photo was of a man sitting next to a stuffed animal. I recognized the animal as a cartoon character and began reading what turned out to be the man’s obituary. He had provided the voice for this character in all the cartoons, which was one of my favorite cartoon shows when I was younger. After having read that obituary I started making a point of glancing at the obituary columns whenever I read the newspaper. Discovering someone who was unfamiliar to me yet through their occupation or creation had an effect on my life was something I always found fascinating. I enjoyed reading about that person’s life, looking for any clues on what was the catalyst for the individual to steer to a particular profession or come up with their invention/creation.     AFTER A SHORT length of time reading different obituaries, I started to notice how those individuals with some type of prestige or prominence got “top billing” in the layout of the death notices. This started me thinking about the finality of death and no matter how much money or notoriety a person acquired, when the time came for their death, they would die the same way as those less fortunate. From my discovery about the obituaries I started to notice a similar bias in news reporting. If a person of some stature was the victim of any type of crime the reports would spend more time to follow the person who killed them and keep the public updated on any and every detail. However if the individual was “average” or disenfranchised, then they barely received a mention in the news. There was something about this that did not sit well with me. In my opinion everyone has the right to die with dignity. Sometimes the newscasts would show the spot where a poor or homeless person was found dead and it was utterly sad to see. But was there an outcry by anyone or plans in place to avoid something like that ever happening again? This is why I loved the determination shown in this action, crime mystery.     AFTER A NATIVE AMERICAN, barefooted woman was found dead in the snow Cory Lambert, played by Jeremy Renner (Arrival, The Avengers franchise), made a promise he would do his best to find out what happened to the young woman. With Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla, Captain America franchise) as Jane Banner, Graham Greene (The Green Mile, Dances with Wolves) as Ben, Kelsey Asbille (Run, The Amazing Spider-Man) as Natalie and Julia Jones (The Twilight Saga franchise, Jonah Hex) as Wilma; the acting in this chilling setting was outstanding. Jeremy and Elizabeth were especially wonderful, each brought life to the well done script. This film festival winner may not have had a fast pace, but the simple settings and landscapes added a layer of despair throughout the picture that added to the mystery. In its own way I felt the story brought to light a subject that may not be familiar to most people. I did appreciate how the writers avoided the typical “Hollywood” ending, yet did not turn the story into a major downer. I could not leave my seat right away because I was thinking about what the world would be like if everyone had respect for each other.

 

3 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Detroit

HATE DOES NOT discriminate or it just has poor aim. I was standing outside with a group of people who came from diverse backgrounds. We were talking and laughing while deciding where we wanted to go eat. A vehicle driving down the street slowed as it neared us, not that any of us were paying attention to it. A beer bottle flew out the window at us before the vehicle sped away. Luckily no one got hit with glass as it shattered in front of us on the sidewalk, but a couple of people were splashed with beer. There was no reason for it; it wasn’t like we were provoking anyone. You could say it was a random act of violence but I would not believe it. I felt some of the people in our group were the target because I caught a glance of the vehicle’s bumper where there was a sticker. Maybe I was wrong for not mentioning it but I did not want anyone to feel worse or different than anyone else.     THE THING THAT puzzles me about hatred is how it gets formed in a person. Having been the victim of both acts of hatred and bullying, I have tried to understand the prejudicial mind or let me say bigot. Why does the life of a complete stranger, who has had no contact with you or whose actions have no bearing on your well being, affect you in such a way to lash out at them? I have thought about this for years; in fact, I still remember a story I heard about a family friend who hated a particular minority group. The reason was because his brother was murdered by an individual of the same minority; that was it. That is one of the reasons why I say hate does not discriminate. I used to think hatred was this laser focused emotion that targeted only a single individual, but it appears to me as if that focus has widened to engulf anyone in its path or intent. And especially when the person filled with hatred is in a position of power it can become intensely lethal. This film’s story is based on true events, so you can see what I mean.     THE TIMES WERE volatile as racial tensions rose in the city of Detroit during the late 1960s. From a single sound of a gun going off the guests of the hotel Algiers were subjected to a night of terror. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker), this historical crime drama starred John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Circle) as Dismukes, Will Poulter (We’re the Millers, The Revenant) as Krauss, Jacob Latimore (Sleight, The Maze Runner) as Fred and Algee Smith (Earth to Echo, The New Edition Story-TV) as Larry. The majority of this movie was filled with heightened tension and anxiety; I was mortified by the things I was seeing on screen thanks to Kathryn’s eye for detail and buildup. She did an incredible job as this picture felt part documentary, part reenactment. The acting from John Boyega and Will Poulter was outstanding. I swear John reminded me of a young Denzel Washington; it was amazing to see him in this role and to see the depth of his acting skills. The same has to be said for Will too. There was a bit of manipulation I felt where the violence and human ugliness were used to move the audience members. Despite feeling that way I still was affected by the story. A majority of people might feel uncomfortable sitting through this film and that would be a good thing.

 

3 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: City of Ghosts

ZOOKEEPERS’ love of animals is stronger than their fear of getting killed. Granted precautions would be in place to avoid being fatally hurt by an animal. I give them credit nonetheless because I feel it takes courage to walk into a space where a wild animal is located. According to a couple of surveys some of the most dangerous jobs would be loggers, fishing workers, construction workers, truckers and farmers. Let us assume the person had a choice in what type of work they wanted to do and were aware of any dangers associated with it. The point I am making is a person chooses what they want to do for either financial reasons or desire to be in that field; they usually do not base their decision on how dangerous and thrilling it would be. Well maybe a stunt double or daredevil would want the excitement.     DESPITE the present danger there were and are people who defy the given norm. A person at one time marrying out of their faith or race could find themselves being cast out or killed. Holding hands or kissing someone of the same gender could get you thrown off of a building. The world is a scary place and personally I find it getting scarier than when I was younger. There is however examples all around of people being courageous. I think those who volunteer for experimental drug studies show courage, as an example. With most cases whatever lines of work a person chooses there would be some down time where they can relax and be off the clock so to speak. However what would you say about a person who decides to do something that will affect their life 24/7? You could say they are nuts, why would they want to do such a thing; however, there is something inside such an individual who would willingly take on the risk for a deeper cause. There is courage but after watching this film festival winning documentary I have a new definition for what courage means.     WATCHING their city being taken over by ISIS a small group of anonymous activists risk their lives to show the world what is going on in their hometown of Raqqa in Syria. Written and directed by Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land, Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare), watching this movie was not only hard but it was also unimaginable. The idea that these men are willing to take on such risk to show the world what is going on in their city was unbelievable. Seeing the footage they were able to shoot may be too much for some viewers. From a viewing experience this picture was suspenseful, thrilling, emotional and dramatic; I still am in a bit of shock that these activists are now marked for life for undertaking this endeavor. Kudos to the director for bringing together the various aspects to this story for there was the actual footage from the city, the personal stories of the activists and news reports. I will be honest I was hesitant for a moment on whether I should post this review. Based on the lengths being taken to squash these activists’ actions, I was wondering if I was in any kind of danger. It may sound crazy but after you view this film you might understand where I am coming from. This was not an easy movie to sit through but compared to what was on screen I have no right to complain about anything.

 

3 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Dunkirk

THOUGH I had made my way to the front I was nervous by the amount of people that were filling up the train station platform. I had not reached the start of the yellow warning strip at the edge of the platform, but one big surge or push could have detrimental results for someone. Something must have happened somewhere along the route to delay the train; the information board only listed a flashing “delay” notice for this particular train line. Everyone was being squeezed together. You could only hope the person behind you was not carrying any large packages that would dig into your back. On the plus side we were not waiting on one of the above ground stations out in the freezing cold. We were standing in a subway station underneath the downtown area.     AFTER what seemed an unbearable amount of time the information board listed the arrival time for the train. I knew it was going to be a challenge to get on the train, let alone get a seat. If the train was skipping stations to make up the delay the chance would be better the passenger cars were not packed. However if it was making its usual stops, by the time it reached my station, the cars could be overflowing with people. As the train finally pulled into the station I saw the cars were over half filled with passengers. I had a good chance based on where I was standing; but only if the doors of the car stopped close in front of me. Luck was with me, one of the train car’s doors stopped directly in front of me. The two people ahead of me quickly moved inside; I followed them and we manuveured to the middle of the car as best we could. The reason was the tightest fit always occurred by the doors and one would have to constantly adjust their place as people tried to exit or shove their way inside. One could not help feeling bad for the passengers who got left behind as they watched their train pull away from the station. I felt much worse for the soldiers in this dramatic action film based on true events.     MILITARY forces from Belgium, France and the British Empire were surrounded by the Nazis. The only way out was by sea, where they could easily be picked off by the enemy’s firepower. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight franchise, Interstellar) this historic war picture starred newcomer Fionn Whitehead as Tommy, Damien Bonnard (A Perfect Plan, Staying Vertical) as a French soldier, Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, The Other Boleyn Girl) as Mr. Dawson and Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn, Rabbit-Proof Fence) as the commander. This movie was not only beautifully filmed; it was enhanced with the incredible musical score that played a part in building up the tense scenes. The story was incredible and I felt Christopher kept it simple because honestly the event could speak for itself. With the placement of the cameras Christopher was able to maintain a deep emotional connection to the viewing audience. I saw this movie in an enhanced theater where the seats vibrated based on the sound intensity; it added more to my experience and level of enjoyment as I felt I was part of the scenes. This was such a well done picture and though my chances of dying on that train platform were slim, I could relate somewhat to the soldiers’ plight in this courageous story.

 

3 ½ stars

 

         

Flash Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

THERE were days where it felt he had a target painted on his back. What he originally thought were random acts of violence, where he happened to be the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time, he began to realize he was the main focus of the perpetrators’ aggression. Unfortunately bystanders around him would also fall victim to the violent acts. Being unexpectedly pushed from behind would cause him to fall into anyone standing in front of him, resulting in the chance they could topple and injure themselves. A liquid filled container thrown at him would also have an impact on anyone around him. He could never understand the hatred towards him. It was not like he started a fight or something; he pretty much fell into the average category, avoiding any type of conflicts or confrontations. His attitude was “live and let live” when it came to the behavior of others; however, there were days where it was a challenge to maintain that attitude.     SEVERAL weeks of constant attacks pushed me to a place I had never been before. With my friends being affected from the fallout and me becoming consumed with a deep set hatred towards my aggressors, I lashed out at one of them when he was alone. It was the only time I instigated a fight. What worked in my favor was the fact no one would ever imagine me picking a fight. Adding in the element of surprise, I was set to let all of my anger out onto this one individual while I kept telling myself not to get hit in the face and start crying. My hope was if I could show this one person that I could fight back that he and the rest of his kind would stop picking on me. A similar train of thought was considered in this 3rd installment of the rebooted action adventure franchise.     WHEN his enclave came under attack Caesar’s, played by Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings franchise, The Prestige), hopes of peaceful co-existence seemed an impossible reality. He would be forced to confront the ugliness of man head on. Compared to the two previous films I found this science fiction story incorporated elements of American slavery and the Bible; especially in regards to Moses and the 10 commandments, at least the movie version. With Woody Harrelson (The Edge of Seventeen, Now You See Me franchise) as the Colonel, Steve Zahn (Dallas Buyers Club, A Perfect Getaway) as Bad Ape, Karin Konoval (The Movie Out Here, 2012) as Maurice and Amiah Miller (Lights Out, How We Live-TV movie) as Nova; I realized some people might not appreciate the acting skills of some of the actors who were CGI enhanced; but I have to tell you, I thought Andy and Karin were amazing in their roles. Andy, besides all of the physical acting, was still able to convey emotions with depth to his character. I will be curious to see if he gets any recognition for the amount of work he put into this dramatic picture. The special effects were well done, never over the top and appearing quite real. What really tied all of the good pieces together in this movie was the script; I felt it was well thought out, going beyond the typical sci-fi story. It had heart which quickly grabbed me into the story. As I continued to think about this film afterwards I can see where it could start a discussion about a variety of topics including our current times.

 

3 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Big Sick

WALKING into the room I thought I was prepared for what I would see. I guess I was not because they were stretched out on the sofa, propped up with pillows that made them look like crumbled facial tissue. They were pale and listless with faded eyes that could only open halfway. My germaphobic tendencies were in a tug of war with my desire to take care of them. I do not always win this war; there are times I have to be lead in under a fog of just released air sanitizer and rubber gloves. The underlying motivation that pushes me is my love for them. When I am deep in a relationship it can be so painful for me to see my loved one sick that I would rather be the one with the illness; you know that says a lot coming from someone who avoids door handles and elevator buttons.     ILLNESS is part of life; there is no way to avoid a sickness though heaven knows I keep trying. When one begins a love relationship they usually are not thinking about the possibility of being a caregiver at some point. The beginning stages of romance involve intimate dinners, exciting or restful travels, being schooled in the likes and dislikes of the other; all wonderful and valid experiences that form a solid foundation in which the two can build their relationship on. To have a sickness at the beginning stages of a deep love can be a painful test of one’s commitment. I have known a few individuals who could not handle the responsibilities associated with being a supportive partner during their loved one’s sickness. It is an ugly situation no matter how you look at it. I will never forget being in the early stages of dating this person who kept commenting about the hair on my chest. It seemed a bit over the top to me so I asked how they would feel if I ever had to go through chemo and lost it. They had to stop and think about it.     FROM what only appeared to be a hook-up turned into a growing romance between stand up comic Kumail and graduate student Emily, played by Kumail Nanjiani (Central Intelligence, Silicon Valley-TV) and Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks, What If). The relationship would not sit well with Kumail’s parents who were planning for his marriage. This film festival winning romantic comedy based on true events was utterly charming in a new fresh way from the typical rom-com. With Holly Hunter (Strange Weather, The Big White) as Beth, Ray Romano (Rob the Mob, The Last Word) as Terry and Zenobia Shroff (When Harry Tries to Marry, Percy) as Sharmeen; the actors made up a solid ensemble with Holly and Zoe being the stand outs for me. The script was intelligent and had an easy flow between comedy, intimacy, sadness and reality. I was fascinated by the added element of cultural differences provided by Kumail and his family. The way humor was drawn out from several of their scenes was done with kindness and affection. One example on the smartness of the script was the inclusion of the standup comedy sessions; it provided a nice balance to the illness element. The diagnosis for this movie is it will not make you sick, you will feel good instead and it will show you perseverance; just what the movie doctor ordered.

 

3 ½ stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Wonder Woman

I have chosen to believe there are more people on this planet who want to do good than those who wish to do harm. Granted there have been times where I did not think that was the case. From time to time I still remember a kid in elementary school who tortured and killed a cat. Though “they” say people can change, I have my doubts about this person. Just as I was leaving for the office this morning I heard on the news authorities found baby coyotes drowned in a bucket of water. It seems the past several weeks only horrific news of people taking the lives of others has been reported. I can tell you it is not easy to stay positive with what has been taking place around all of us. However an example will come by that renews or restores my faith and give me hope that good will overpower evil.     RECENTLY after seeing this film I was watching a news magazine type of television show. A segment was devoted to a woman who has devoted her life to protecting elephants from poachers. She even moved her family to Kenya so she could commit more time to her efforts. I was amazed as I watched this woman negotiate with the village elders to help by reporting to the authorities any sightings of poachers in their area. If I remember correctly she helped set up a program to help captured poachers get rehabilitation and find them decent employment opportunities. They even showed 2 poachers who were sworn enemies that now are friends, working as forest rangers. All of this woman’s efforts were geared to protect elephants from being slaughtered for their tusks. One of the things I find fascinating about individuals who devote such energy towards goodness is where their motivation comes from. Is it something they are born with or does it come from a series of events? Not being familiar with the Wonder Woman character I was totally impressed by her motivation to do good in this action adventure fantasy.     WHEN a plane crashed off the shores of her homeland Diana, played by Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious franchise, Keeping up with the Jones), the princess of the Amazons discovered there was an evil force in the world wanting to do harm. She quickly realized what she had to do. With Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, The Finest Hours) as Steve Trevor, Connie Nielsen (One Hour Photo, Gladiator) as Hippolyta and Danny Huston (Children of Men, The Aviator) as Ludendorff; the script to this story was well thought out. I learned about Diana before she became Wonder Woman. The humor, action, drama were beautifully blended for a thoroughly entertaining movie experience. The soundtrack even had a bit of a throwback acknowledgement to the TV show. While the special effects were fun, they had a comic book vibe which was enjoyable to me. Keep in mind my only exposure to this superhero previously was the actress Lynda Carter, where she would spin around to change into her Wonder Woman garb. This was a well done picture that came from a female’s sensibilities; in fact, I understand it earned the highest weekend opening for a film directed by a woman. If that is not enough to convince you to see this picture, I want you to also know everyone in the theater where I saw this film applauded at the end.

 

3 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Logan

FEELING something similar between you and another person can be the catalyst in forming a bond or a kinship with them. Without being related by blood; the relationship that comes out of this connection can be just as strong, if not stronger. I have experienced this feeling numerous times in my life. Volunteering at an event I remember introducing myself to a fellow volunteer and within several minutes you would have thought we had been friends for some time. There were similarities in our beliefs, humor and philosophy that laid down this immediate connection that lasted for years. I think that is one reason I enjoy asking couples how they first met; it is fascinating to hear what the first things were that started their connection. Rarely have I heard people say their connection took a long time to solidify.     ONE of the things I pride myself on is my ability to see parts of myself in other people. I think that is one of the reasons why people tend to be comfortable in my classes. When someone new walks into my class I can get a sense of them based on how they walked into the studio. First let me say I treat every member the same; however, for some people I can sense they need a little more coaxing or encouragement to remain in the room. The tendency for someone who does not have solid body awareness of themselves is to hide in the background so as not to be noticed. When I sense this I make sure I go up and welcome them before the start of class. Usually I crack a joke to break the ice. Within that little amount of time I can usually tell if we have something in common. It can create a strong bond as you can see in this action drama.     TIME has passed and the world is different as Logan/Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman (Prisoners, Eddie the Eagle) is in declining health. With his mentor and friend Charles, played by Patrick Stewart (X-Men franchise, Christmas Eve), weak and unable to take care of himself; Logan cannot take on anything more, even when a young girl comes to them in desperate need of their help. This science fiction thriller was not a typical superhero film. I was stunned at the amazing script that made me laugh, cry and sit with excitement on the edge of my seat. With their acting skills Hugh and Patrick made their characters human in a way we have not seen before in their other installments of the X-Men stories. Along with them I was absolutely mesmerized with Dafne Keen’s (The Refugees-TV) performance as Laura. She was such an eye magnet where I could not stop watching her to see what she would do next. I will tell you there was a lot of violence and blood in this film and I did not feel the director was using it just to get a rise out of the viewers. In other words it was necessary based on the arc of the story; so yes this picture deserved its R rating. If you are not familiar with the X-Men series it would be to your advantage to see a couple of the earlier films to appreciate the story in this intense movie. I believe many viewers will feel, on different levels, a connection to this incredible story.

 

3 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Salesman

ACCORDING to the dictionary the word chivalry is defined as, “an honorable and polite way of behaving especially toward women.” Believe it or not I remember a time when men would open a door for a woman or give up their seat on a bus or train for them. I can see where maybe some people would be slightly offended if they perceived the action as being dominant or chauvinistic. Personally I do not care if it is a man or woman; I think if the person is elderly it would just be a common courtesy. However, things changed the past few decades; I rarely see anyone giving up a seat on the bus, even if the person is holding heavy packages or a woman is pregnant. I am used to it now but I initially was surprised when I opened a door for a woman and was given a suspicious look. It was not the type of reaction I would have expected, figuring a quick thank you would have been the response. After several times getting similar reactions, it dawned on me that these women may have not experienced a stranger doing a kind gesture for them. What does that say about our society I thought?     THOUGH I have seen the same type of scene in the movies, I remember being out at a club with friends and a man mistakenly thought a woman at the bar was single. He walked up to her and started talking; I could not hear him over the music blaring over the loudspeakers. At one point I did see the woman shake her head side to side which I took as her way of saying, “No.” I do not know what the man said but walking up behind him another man tapped him on the shoulder. It turned out the 2nd man was the woman’s boyfriend. Before you could stir the ice in your drink, the two men got into a shoving match and both had to be kicked out by one of the club’s bouncers. I thought the whole scene was intense until I watched this dramatic thriller.     UNAWARE the former tenant of the apartment they were now living in used to entertain gentlemen callers; married actors Rana and Emad Etesami’s lives, played by Taraneh Alidoosti (About Elly, Beautiful City) and Shahab Hosseini (About Elly, A Separation), were drastically changed when one of the gentleman callers showed up at their apartment one night. This Oscar winning film from writer and director Asghar Farad (A Separation, The Past) was consistent with his other movies. A well thought out story about human emotions, told in a simple way. I enjoyed the story within story idea with the use of Arthur Miller’s play, “Death of a Salesman.” The acting was excellent and I will tell you why. These actors were in films I had previously seen by the same director and it did not register with me because the performances were so different in this foreign film. Another reason why I enjoyed this movie was because of my curiosity of other cultures; seeing how the average person exists in their own environment fascinates me. If I had seen this film before the Oscars telecast I too would have picked it for best foreign movie. Persian was spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Silence

THERE was a soft knock at my door. If I had music playing instead of studying for a test I would not have heard it. Upon opening the door I saw a woman standing with a canvas bag filled with pamphlets sitting by her feet. I asked her if I could help her though I was cautious since I was living in off campus housing; we never had strangers in the building. She asked me if I wanted to be saved today. I simply stared at her because I had never been asked such a question. Asking her what I was being saved from she leaned down to take one of the pamphlets out of her book and started to tell me about her religion. Because I was studying for a test I did not let her go on long before asking her how did she determine such a thing for me, that possibly my religion was taking care of me. She paused while maintaining her slight smile before telling me I should consider her faith because it was the only way for me.   THIS was my first time having someone trying to convert me from my faith. At the time I was offended, namely because she was not acknowledging my faith. I finally had to ask her what right she had to make assumptions about my faith and spirituality from our short conversation. Having grown up in a diverse neighborhood, my friends and I were always going to each other’s religious holiday celebrations. Houses in my neighborhood would have either Christmas trees displayed in their windows or menorahs, while others displayed nothing. Maybe I grew up in a bubble but there were never any issues about one’s religion being wrong compared to someone else. I think that non-judgmental environment I grew up in made watching this dramatic film festival winning movie more shocking for me.   TRAVELING from Portugal to Japan to find their lost mentor 17th century Jesuit priests Rodrigues and Garrpe, played by Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, 99 Homes) and Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Midnight Special) were not safe once they landed on foreign soil. Written and directed by Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Departed), I understand it took Martin years to get this story filmed. With Liam Neeson (Taken franchise, Run All Night) as Ferreira and Tadanobu Asano (Thor franchise, Ichi the Killer) as the interpreter, the story covered deeper subject matter than the usual heavily marketed movie studios’ films. This story was quite thought provoking where I am still processing the scenes I witnessed. I say witness because there were scenes that were tough to watch with their violence, while others presented interesting discussion. The acting was excellent and some scenes were close to brilliant. One issue I had with the film was the length of it; I found the running time of 2 hours and 41 minutes too long. At one point I felt I was going from one torture scene to another. If I heard correctly the movie was originally over an hour longer; I cannot imagine sitting that long for this story. Putting that aside this film did present a forum to discuss human nature and religious issues. I do not know if this movie would cause one to convert but it could possibly change your views on the power of films.

 

3 ½ stars     

 

 

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