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Flash Movie Trailer: The Outfit

THANKS TO MY OCD TENDENCIES, I had no idea I had a knack for making merchandise displays. I was working part time at an importer of Asian furnishings, doing deliveries and various other odd jobs. When an employee was going on vacation, the manager asked me to set up some type of display with the shipment of urns we had just received. I had no experience doing anything like this but told him I would take care of it. Well long story short, I created this stepped floor display down the middle of a wide aisle that perfectly displayed the urns. The first day after I finished it, we nearly sold out of the urns by the end of the day. The manager was stunned as well as me. That same week after the urns sold, the manager asked me to handle the uncrating and displaying of a shipment of ornamental hand fans. With newfound confidence, I thought it would be best to open a group of fans and place them around the other displays, such as having them stick out of a few potted plants around the store and displaying fans in several cabinets. The rest of them I placed on a rosewood dining table in a fan shape with each row a different color. It turned out the fans were a big hit at the cash registers.      WHEN THE EMPLOYEE CAME BACK FROM vacation, she took over doing the displays; however, the manager told her I would help her with them. I was excited by this discovered talent of mine and was eager to help her out whenever a shipment came in. I never considered how she felt about having someone suddenly working with her. However, it was made quite clear to me, that she wanted to handle everything by herself. I tried helping, but she felt her ideas were better than mine. My issue was the fact her displays did not always have a symmetrical look to them, which caused by OCD pulses to pick up. I tried showing her how the item looked if it was displayed in a different way, but I could see my advice was not being well received. I had to figure out a different way of expressing my opinions. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to work with her; so, I started to do a little rearranging after she was gone for the day. Nothing too dramatic, but just enough to make the display pop out a bit. Surprisingly she only asked me a couple of times about the changes she saw in her displays. I would tell her either I had to make room for an order to go out on delivery or customers had moved things around while trying to match up items with their orders. I had to make this work because I enjoyed what I was doing there. It is quite like what the main character was doing in this crime thriller, except he had to worry about being killed.      AFTER OPENING HIS SHOP IN CHICAGO, a tailor had to figure out how to stay on the gangsters’ good side after they came calling. With Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, The Trial of the Chicago 7) as Leonard, Zoey Deutch (Before I Fall, The Professor) as Mable, Dylan O’Brien (The Maze Runner franchise, American Assassin) as Richie, Johnny Flynn (Emma, Clouds of Sils Maria) as Francis and Nikki Amuka-Bird (Jupiter Ascending, The Omen) as Violet; this drama captured me quickly. Mark was the reason for me to remain focused on the story as it unfolded. I enjoyed the way the script snaked its way through the story, adding these unexpected twists and turns; it was exciting. I thought the entire look of this film was perfect as it brought back to life a period from the 1950s. This picture was a great start to the new Oscar season. My hope is that the future movies coming out this year will be just as exciting and engaging as this one.

3 ¼ stars

Flash Movie Review: tick, tick…BOOM!

THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THOSE who sacrifice to make their dreams succeed and those who get it handed to them. From my work and life experiences, I have seen the results from both ways. There was the job I had where the owner was the son, who inherited the business after his father passed away. The son was not a pleasant man to work for because he never really had to work to make the business succeed. He had big ideas, but because he did not understand the amount of work needed to succeed, he lost everything when he opened a retail store in a large shopping center. The new store lasted a little over one year before he had to close it down, since it never turned a profit. I remember when I first started to teach fitness, I thought about making it a full-time job/career. For three solid years I worked at making a name for myself as I studied the presenters at fitness conventions, wondering if I could get to that level in the fitness world. At one point I was working at 5 different locations, doing a multitude of classes; I never turned down an offer to sub for an instructor who could not teach their class that day. It was a hectic pace that did not allow me to socialize much. Now, I knew that would be the case and I was willing to focus all my energy on teaching classes while taking classes to increase my knowledge in the fitness world.      WHEN I DECIDED TO START WRITING movie reviews here, I made a promise to myself that I would write a review every day for one entire year, and I did it. My life was basically filled with either sitting in movie theaters or sitting at home writing reviews. After the first year, I did not want to stop but understood I could not keep up such a pace and now it has been over 10 years of me writing reviews at a slower pace. In the scheme of things, my sacrifices were not life and death decisions unlike a friend of mine who had to become the main wage earner in her household. After her husband lost his job, she took on extra shifts at work to make up the loss of household income. She realized she would not be able to keep up the pace for the long term; so, she enrolled back in school to complete her master’s degree. With the added degree her wages and job opportunities would increase quickly. This meant she would be working at her job and with schoolwork for 1 solid year with no breaks, and she did it. It was a major sacrifice for their relationship but once it was done, they both had a deeper appreciation of each other and their life together. This biographical musical drama can show you what can happen when one makes a sacrifice.      HIS DREAM WAS TO WRITE THE next great musical; but with the clock ticking Jonathan Larson, played by Andrew Garfield (The Eyes of Tammy Faye, 99 Homes), felt the pressure on what he would do with his life if he failed. With Alexandra Shipp (X-Men franchise; Love, Simon) as Susan, Robin de Jesus (The Boys in the Band, Hair Brained) as Michael, Vanessa Hudgens (Beastly, Spring Breakers) as Karessa and Joshua Henry (American Renegades, Sex and the City) as Roger; this Oscar nominated movie is something that musical theater fans would love. The big surprise for me was how good Andrew was with his performance; he held his own with the other wonderful performers in the cast. Overall, I thought the directing was crisp and precise, though at times it almost felt frenetic. I do not know how much of the story was true; but for those of you who do not know, this story is about the creation of the musical Rent. Knowing that made my film watching experience more enjoyable. As I mentioned before, if one is not a fan of musicals, they may not enjoy this picture as much.                                        

3 ¼ stars   

Flash Movie Review: Being the Ricardos

I REMEMBER WATCHING IT BUT DID not actively seek it out. After school I would walk home and usually grab something for a snack before dinner. Since I was sitting and eating, I would turn on the television and channel surf the stations. What caught my eye was the fact there was a TV show filmed in black and white. As I sat there watching it, I was struck by the female lead’s physicality; she had an expressive face and she knew how to use it, besides the physical exertion she would put out in her movements. It fascinated me because I could not recall seeing a female on television who did this same type of comedy. I became enthralled by the show and began to make it a point that I got home in time to catch this show. The funny thing is, I thought I was watching a new show each week. It turned out they were repeats, that the original airing of the show was some years earlier. No matter to me, I got swept up into the lives of this couple with their neighbors and friends. I do not easily laugh out loud, but I found myself more times than not, laughing at the antics the female lead was getting herself in to every day.      IT WAS MANY YEARS LATER THAT I discovered this woman who played that lead was a very shrewd businesswoman. I had seen her for many years on her various television shows and movies, besides guest starring on other TV shows. The things I knew about her were more in line with the fodder that gossip magazines put out; however, after doing some research I discovered not only was she a smart individual, but her husband was as well. After all this time I still can see one snippet of a scene from her classic television show and immediately recall the entire episode; it is as if I was there as part of the set, the memories are so crystal clear. What a remarkable life this woman led. At one time, approximately 60 million households tuned in to watch her on television. Can you imagine that? She commanded such an audience that evidently the retail establishment made changes simply to accommodate those shoppers that were fans of the show. These facts are historic and just think, I accidently stumbled on the show when I was a little kid, who wanted to watch something while eating my afternoon snack. Because of these memories, I felt I was transported back in time as I began watching this wonderful biographical drama based on true events.      WITH ONLY ONE WEEK TO WRITE, rehearse and put on a weekly television show; there were so many things taking place that the viewing audience had no idea were happening. How the female lead not only survived each challenge but went on to become a legend in the process. With Nicole Kidman (The Goldfinch, Boy Erased) as Lucille Ball, Javier Bardem (Skyfall, The Sea Inside) as Desi Arnaz, J.K. Simmons (The Tomorrow War, Palm Springs) as William Frawley, Nina Arlanda (Richard Jewell, Stan & Ollie) as Vivian Vance and Tony Hale (Clifford the Big Red Dog, Arrested Development-TV) as Jess Oppenheimer; this historical piece of Americana was brilliant in who was cast it turns out. When I heard Nicole was playing Lucy, I thought for sure she would not be able to handle such a larger-than-life character. I was wrong; I actually forgot it was her because she was so deep into character. Javier was a major surprise because he was incredible as Desi. Honestly, everyone was terrific in this film and though the dialog was tight and smart, I wished there had been a deeper delving into Lucy and Desi. At times, I felt as if the story was getting confused in what it was trying to say. Despite this I still am a fan of this film; it may partly be due to my fond memories of the show.                                                            

3 ¼ stars   

Flash Movie Review: Four Hours at the Capitol

WHILE WE WERE LINING UP INTO groups, the line monitors kept reminding us not to engage with any protesters. I thought it was ironic since we were about to stage a protest march. There were thousands of people maneuvering into place; I had two friends with me in my group. The volunteers who were chosen to be the line monitors were handing out a list of safety tips to everyone who walked into the staging area, along with reminding us to stay hydrated. Every group I could see from my location had people in them holding banners and signs. While we waited for our start time, volunteers dressed in those yellow hazard vests kept walking by to remind us that this was a peaceful march. Since I was curious about what kind of protesters are we supposed to not engage with, I stopped one of the volunteers to ask him. He told me there was a group of protesters who were known to instigate physical encounters so they could then file legal suits against individuals, protest organizers and city officials in the hopes of getting money either by winning the lawsuit or agreeing to a settlement. I was appalled by this and had to ask how these protesters incite reactions. He said they shout out a variety of vulgarities to rile up a person, besides spitting at them. I was not looking forward to crossing their path.      WE WERE ALL IN PLACE BY our start time. There was a certain energy in the air that felt exhilarating to me. Being in the middle of a mass of people with like minds was heady; each of us were there to focus on a common issue we all shared. The beginning of our walk was easy to navigate as we had quickly moved from a park to a main thoroughfare. There were photographers and news reporters scurrying back and forth as they were trying to document and catch a perfect moment. It was not long before I heard a different tone of sound coming up ahead. I was used to the different chants and sayings being uttered around me; however, this sound had an ominous note. A line monitor was shouting reminders to not engage. There up ahead was the group of protesters we were warned about. They were pointing at individuals in the march, yelling obscenities at us. The homemade signs they held in the air depicted vile images. The level of hatred being displayed was unsettling to me. We were protesting for better rights and these people were wishing us dead; it made no sense to me. It was so extreme that I could not wait to pass them by. I did not think I would see such extreme behavior on display ever again, but that was not the case since I watched this eye-opening documentary.      WHILE ELECTED OFFICIALS WERE INSIDE THE capitol to certify the presidential election, a mob of people were outside trying to get in. Directed by Jamie Roberts (The Fires That Foretold Grenfell, War Child), this film used a variety of footage and recordings from both the individuals inside and outside the capitol building. I am sure most of us have seen footage shot on January 6th; but I must tell you, the scenes and conversations I saw in this movie were a different level of disturbing for me. It did not appear as if the movie studio tried to sway the story favorably to one side or the other; it just came across as a series of live events that got captured on camera. While I try to avoid any political debate, I just want to say I still cannot get over the level of extreme emotions I saw in this picture. It left me sad that there seems to be absolutely no middle ground in this country. I will keep my personal feelings to myself and simply say I am not comfortable seeing hatred at such an extreme level.

3 ¼ stars  

Flash Movie Review: Together Together

BEFORE I WAS INTRODUCED TO ONE of my new co-workers, I was told her husband was something like 20 years older than her. It was the oddest thing to hear as part of an introduction to meeting someone. It was my first week at a new job and an employee in my department was taking me around the company to introduce me. As we were walking into another office, she said the name of the first person I would meet, then mentioned the thing about the age difference. The woman with the older husband was friendly as she explained what she did and how her department would be working with mine. After meeting her, I was directed towards several other employees before going back to my desk. However, that comment about the older husband still lingered in my mind. I wanted to ask my co-worker why she thought to tell me about the age difference between that woman and her husband, but I did not know how to approach it. Back at my office, I settled down at my desk and before my “tour guide” left me, I suddenly had a thought. I asked her if the older husband of the employee she introduced me to was ill. She said no and asked me why I was asking. I explained that because she mentioned the age, I was assuming something was wrong with him. She said not at all; she just thought it was bizarre that the employee would marry someone so much older than herself. That was all I needed to hear, and I decided to drop any further conversation about the married couple.      LISTENING TO MY CO-WORKER SAY SUCH a thing, told me she had pre-conceived notions about love. In her mind, love was only meant for two people who were close in age. I would have liked to ask her what the cutoff age was to love and marry another person. In addition, their age difference was none of her business. I wondered what she would have thought if I told her I used to be with someone who was 14 years younger than me. As far as I was concerned love has no age restriction. Putting one’s perceptions or beliefs onto another person makes me uncomfortable. I think it is a major achievement when a person can connect with someone and get to a place where they love them unconditionally. What does it matter to someone else if there is a difference in age, race, gender or religion between two people? I like to confront such a person and ask them who decided what were the requirements to love someone. In my opinion, love comes in many forms which is why I so enjoyed watching this dramatic comedy.      AFTER DECIDING HE WANTED A CHILD, a software developer searches for the perfect surrogate to carry his child, but what exactly is perfect? With Patti Harrison (A Simple Plan, Shrill-TV) as Anna, Ed Helms (Father Figures, Love the Coopers) as Matt, Rosalind Chao (The Joy Luck Club, The Laundromat) as Dr. Andrews, Timm Sharp (Friends with Money, Fun with Dick and Jane) as Jacob and Nora Dunn (Southland Tales, Three Kings) as Adele; I thought the story offered a charming discussion about relationships. Patti and Ed had an interesting bond on screen that accentuated their acting skills. The script posed some interesting questions which I thought the two of them handled in an authentic way, even down to non-verbal cues. There were a few scenes that seemed to have been created to manipulate the viewer’s emotions, but it was a minor distraction for me. I simply enjoyed the story telling aspect of the movie; it was comfortable to sit and watch the story unfold without any additional bells and whistles placed into the script. I may not have loved this film enough to give it my top rating; but I sure was quite enamored with it.                                

3 ¼ stars  

Flash Movie Review: The Courier

I FELT SAD FOR HER PATIENTS, wondering what it must be like to have her as their therapist. She was a neighbor of mine and granted I did not know much about her, but I heard a lot of talk about her. From the few times I had interactions with her, I felt she had an edge. You know that energy that comes off a person that is stark and harsh, sensing it might shock you like static electricity? Well, she had it in spades. I never saw her smile; only having seen a sour look on her face. She had piercing eyes, but they did not look happy to me. They didn’t have that spark of life in them, only a brown dullness. When she said she was a therapist I was stunned because never had I felt a warm fuzziness from her. At least a sense of empathy; I could not imagine what time of “bedside manner” she must have had with her patients. I mean seriously, even her dog was not friendly. It was always barking at anyone who came near it and I knew it was not a friendly bark because the tail was not wagging. I had heard several things about her from other neighbors who had a run in with her. Some of the complaints were: she didn’t pickup after her dog, she never acknowledged any of them with a hello when their paths crossed on the street or at the grocery store and she took up two spaces when she parked her car. Seriously, I had no idea how she psychoanalyzed someone.      MAYBE I AM GUILTY AS OTHERS by stereotyping what a therapist should look like; I am not sure. I do not believe I am alone in assuming certain people gravitate to certain professions. I remember riding the train into the city and having a conversation with the individual next to me. When I mentioned I was a fitness instructor, they looked at me and said right to my face, “You do not look like an instructor. Don’t they usually have muscles and are more on the slim side?” I was dumbfounded. All I did was give a slight chuckle and tell him there were no body requirements to teach fitness because we deal with the entire body, not just making muscles. I am not sure he got it, but it did not matter to me. It is funny because I make a point of telling a new class that I am not a typical fitness instructor; I do not just eat broccoli and tofu and live at the gym. I tell them I would like to sit at home, eating a pizza; but know I must balance out that desire by helping my body maintain all its functions. Then I add by doing this work now I hope I delay having to depend on someone or something to help me function in my daily life. If nothing else, I pride myself on being different and that is one of the reasons I especially enjoyed watching this dramatic thriller because that was the reason the main character was asked to help his country.      DURING THE HEIGHT OF THE COLD war, a British salesman was asked to go on a sales call to the Soviet Union. Hopefully he would be able to make a contact. With Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Doctor Strange) as Greville Wynne, Merab Ninidze (My Happy Family, Jupiter’s Moon) as Oleg Penkovsky, Rachel Brosnahan (I’m Your Woman, Patriot’s Day) as Emily, relative newcomer James Schofield as Cox and Anton Lesser (Miss Potter, Game of Thrones-TV) as Bertrand; this historical film based on a true story was a good old fashioned suspense picture. I was attracted to the methodical pacing of the story as well as to the whole look of the film. The acting was excellent as I felt like an insider to that era’s crisis. Another reason why I enjoyed this film was specifically due to not having any special effects or product placements from a marketing department; I simply enjoyed hearing and watching a story, albeit an important story.                 

3 ¼ stars 

Flash Movie Review: In the Heights

CONSIDERING I FIRST SAW HER WHILE sitting inside a shopping cart, it is rather amazing the memory of her is as strong today as it was decades ago. It was the only grocery store I knew as a little boy; she worked behind one of the cash registers and her name was Henrietta. With wire-rimmed eyeglasses and her shiny, light brown hair pulled tightly back into a large bun that was stuffed into a black hairnet; I always perked up when she was the checker for our checkout line. She knew my name which even for my young age, made me feel important and special. Not all the time, but often enough she would give me a lollipop or a small candy bar. Always with a smile on her face, to me she was the kindest and sweetest person I knew. When I got old enough to go to the grocery store myself, I always chose the check out aisle she was working. Though I had outgrown the desire to eat every bit of candy given or bought for me, Henrietta would give me some kind of small trinket or object. One time I received a pencil sharpener that was shaped like a rocket ship; another time I received a bottle of bubbles. She was such a strong fixture at the neighborhood grocery store; I could not think of the store without thinking about her.      NEXT TO THE GROCERY STORE WAS a laundromat and next to it was a hot dog place. Once my friends and I were old enough, we would go to the hot dog restaurant for lunch instead of the school cafeteria. The restaurant was a fast-food joint that served hot dogs and hamburgers in these red plastic baskets that were lined with a red and white checkerboard sheet of waxy paper. The cook knew we students had to be back to school on time, so he made sure to get our orders out to us quickly. Sometimes after school, I would stop at the restaurant to get a soft drink before walking a couple of blocks to the local drugstore. The store had the look of an old-fashioned apothecary with its wooded shelves going high up the sides of the walls. Light fixtures hung down by black piping and the ceiling was made of stamped tin. The pharmacists knew me and would let me take family members’ prescriptions home without a signature.  Each store in my neighborhood was a familiar and welcome place; many of the store owners knew me. Nearly all the residents in the neighborhood knew each other. The apartment I grew up in never seemed small to me because my home was my entire neighborhood, just as it was for the residents in this musical drama.      ONE WAS NEVER ALONE WHEN THEY lived in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood, both in good times and bad. With Anthony Ramos (A Star is Born, Honest Thief) as Usnavi, Melissa Barrera (Vida-TV, Dos Veces Tu) as Vanessa, newcomer Leslie Grace, Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island) as Benny and Jimmy Smits (Star War franchise, NYPD Blue-TV) as Kevin Rosario; this film based on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s (Hamilton, Mary Poppins Returns) Broadway musical brimmed over with singing and dancing. The music was infectious, accompanied by electrifying choreographed dancing. I thought the directing was crisp, providing a few opportunities to create powerful scenes. There were a few scenes that did not resonate with me; either they were offshoots to what I thought was the main story line or the scenario presented was predictable to me. If one is not a fan of musicals, I do not feel they will enjoy watching this movie as much as those familiar with Lin-Manuel’s style of song writing. The sense of belonging within a community, done in a vibrant and bold style, was a nice change of pace from the typical pictures that have come out this year. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.               

3 ¼ stars    

Flash Movie Review: The United States vs. Billie Holiday

IF I HAD LIVED FURTHER DOWN the hallway of my college residence, I would have certainly failed all my classes. At the opposite end of the hallway lived a student who played loud, heavy metal music when he had to study. He did listen to it other times; but during the week, he would play it at the same specific time which I found out was when he had to study. There would be no way I could study, let alone read a book, with such a distraction. When I studied, I had to have it quiet; the same goes for when I read a book for pleasure. I had a friend who could read while the television was on. If that was me, my ears would be picking up snippets of conversations while I was trying to read, causing a distraction for me. I admire people who are not bothered by such distractions. There were some students who liked to study together in small groups. They would congregate in the building’s lounge, fitting themselves around one of the tables or plopping themselves down in a corner filled with beanbag chairs and throw pillows. I would see them huddled together passing around bags of chips and pretzels along with a couple of thermoses filled with what I suspected to be something stronger than a soft drink or coffee. There would be no way I could be part of their study group because I would be constantly distracted.      THE WEIRD THING IS WHEN I AM cooking or baking, I like to have some sound playing in the background. Either music or anything on the TV, I like it playing in the background because for some reason it keeps me calm. I always wondered if it is a creative thing, where people who are “making” something like to have a multiple of their senses getting stimulated at the same time. I cannot remember the artist’s name, but there was one I read about who loved to have music playing anytime they were painting. On the other hand, only based on the movie I saw, I believe Vincent Van Gogh preferred silence while painting so he could feel everything around him. It comes down to different creative people experience distractions in different ways. I cannot imagine what it would be like for, let us say, a sculptor trying to create something while having a distraction nearby. There used to be an artist who lived on my block who would always wear noise cancelling headphones whenever they were outside working on a project. With me speaking of distractions, after seeing this Oscar nominated and film festival winning movie, I cannot believe what the main character went through while selling out concert halls.      THE PERFORMANCE OF ONE SONG WAS all that it took for the United States government to hopefully find a way to stop the singer Billie Holiday, played by Andra Day (Marshall), from ever singing again. With Leslie Jordan (The Help, Will & Grace-TV) as Reginald Lord Devine, Miss Lawrence (Star-TV, Empire-TV) as Miss Freddy, Natasha Lyonne (Honey Boy, Orange is the New Black-TV) as Tallulah Bankhead and Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight, The Predator) as Jimmy Fletcher; this dramatic music biography must be watched simply because of Andra’s performance. Known more as a singer, this starring role of hers made me think I was truly watching Billie Holiday. Overall, I enjoyed watching this film, though it needed a tightening up on the direction and another rewrite of the script. The reason I say this is because there were such a variety of characters that at times the intensity in Andra’s performance waned. Other than that, I cannot get over the life Billie was living through while trying to simply sing for a living. A deservedly Oscar nominated performance that needs to be seen to be believed.                    

3 ¼ stars  

Flash Movie Review: Nomadland

MAYBE BEING BORN IN AN APARTMENT building is the reason why I acknowledge neighbors when I see them. I have lived in buildings and houses; each offers a different living experience. With a house, I always made sure that any loud music/noise ended by 9 pm. There were times I would get home late on a winter night and I would not use the snowblower to shovel the sidewalks, because I did not want to disturb any neighbors. It was important to me to be a good neighbor, so I never complained about a dog barking non-stop in the neighbor’s backyard or my neighbor’s child shooting baskets at 6:30 in the morning. Honestly, I was fortunate to have reasonable and good neighbors. It was not unusual for a neighbor to come over and help when they saw me attempting to do a home repair outside. Likewise, I would help a neighbor carry groceries or heavy objects from their vehicle whenever I saw them. When I moved from an apartment to a house, I made it a point to maintain friendly, or at least cordial, relations with my neighbors. We were going to be living next door to each other, so why would I want to cause something that would turn the relationship acrimonious.      LIVING IN A CONDO BUILDING, I have found I have more frequent contact with neighbors than when living in a house. Having several apartments on one floor, one is bound to bump into a neighbor in the hallway. Add in an elevator and there rarely is a day I would not see anyone. Now here is the funny thing; when someone would get on the elevator I always either say hello or acknowledge them with a nod of my head. We live in the same building and though they may be a stranger to me, I feel it is the kind thing to do. It always surprises me when I meet a neighbor who either does not make eye contact or says nothing in return when I acknowledge them. It is not like I get offended by it; I just find it odd. There are some neighbors who will make small talk and there are others who just say a quick hi and go about their business. This may sound weird, but I sometimes wonder what a neighbor would do if they came upon me in some kind of physical distress. Would they quickly walk away because they do not want to be involved or would they try to help? I would rather they be like the neighbors in this dramatic, Academy Award winning movie.      EXPERIENCING MULTIPLE LOSSES AFTER THE GREAT recession, the only thing Fern, played by Frances McDormand (Moonrise Kingdom, Burn After Reading), had available was her phone and a van. Between the two she would find a place unlike the place she had come from. With newcomer Gay DeForest as Gay, newcomer Patricia Grier as Patty, newcomer Linda May as Linda and David Strathairn (Fast Color, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) as Dave, this film festival winner was a gentle piece of work. The direction was excellent though I have to say the pacing bordered close to being too slow for me. The acting from Francis was a study on how one could convey emotions without talking and she was powerful in the role. One of the big surprises for me were the newcomers who were not actors but the actual people portraying their lives. The story was a curious one and I appreciated the way it was filmed; the scenery was beautiful. I do have to say if I had seen this before I did my Oscar favorites, I honestly would not have picked Frances as best actress, not that she was bad by any means. My focus is first and foremost the entertainment value and I think the slowness and quiet dragged me down a bit. However, I still feel this rightfully deserved to be included with the nominees this past year.

3 ¼ stars 

Flash Movie Trailer: Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

AS WE WERE COMING IN FOR a landing at the airport, the passenger in the next seat reminded me to make sure I don’t put my wallet in my pants pocket. I thanked him as I wondered what kind of city I would find in this foreign land. The flight was several hours and this passenger, upon hearing this was my first trip to the city, had updated me on a variety of places where I had to be careful because of pickpockets and con artists. I had heard similar stuff from friends back home who had visited this place before. My plan once we landed was to get my luggage then find the transportation terminal to take a bus to my hotel. The walk from luggage claim to transportation was short; once there, I stopped to put my luggage down to double check my paperwork on which bus I needed. About 25 feet away from me was a woman standing and talking to 2 guys. At first, I thought they were a group; but soon realized the two guys were native as they were talking about their cab that was parked outside. The way they stood next to the woman; she could not see that one of the guys was trying to slip his hand into her purse, that was hanging down from her shoulder. Before I had time to think, I yelled out, “HEY!” It was enough for the guy to move his hand away as the woman turned to look at me. The 2 men quickly walked away. What kind of city was I getting into?      GRATEFULLY, DESPITE THAT INTRODUCTION TO A new city, I fell in love with the place. My time there reminded me of another trip I took to an international city. On that trip, I had planned to incorporate a lot of walking into my daily sightseeing attractions. Of course, I had to try their public transportation at least once, which was surreal for me because I was able to imagine what it must have been like to be underground decades ago, while bombs were exploding above. On one of my daily excursions, I wound up getting lost and could not figure out how to get to my intended destination. With the tourist map in hand, I glanced at the pedestrians who were coming and going and chose a middle-aged looking man to stop and ask for help. He was friendly and unbelievably helpful to the point where he insisted walking with me, to make sure I got to the correct train stop. That chance encounter only enhanced the great time I had visiting that city. A moment of kindness can make all the difference; you can see it for yourself in this animated adventure comedy.      THE SIGHTING OF A UFO NEARBY makes the Farmer, voiced by John Sparkes (Calendar Girls, Peppa Pig-TV), see a new source of income; while Shaun the sheep, voiced by Justin Fletcher (Chicken Run, Justin’s House-TV), makes a new friend. With Amalia Vitale (Making It, Christmas Eve) voicing Lu-La/Me-Ma, Kate Harbour (Bob the Builder-TV, Timmy Time-TV) voicing Agent Red/Timmy’s Mum and David Holt (Angry Kid-TV, The Jungle Book-TV) voicing Mugg-1NS; this Oscar nominated and film festival winner was a joy to watch. Besides enjoying the style of animation in this film, I loved the fact there was no discernible dialog. Emotions and intentions were all conveyed with the face and body; it was incredible. The story was simple and there were no surprises per se; however, there was such a charm and fun element to this film that I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. The humor/sight gags were sly and amusing on multiple levels; some geared to younger kids and others to more mature, including adults. If this sequel is any indication of what to expect going forward, I will always enjoy visiting this farm where Shaun lives. Extra scene during the credits.

3 ¼ stars      

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